The Department of Veteran Affairs launched White Ribbon VA, a month-long call to action against sexual harassment, sexual assault, and domestic violence, on October 1 in honor of National Domestic Violence Awareness Month.
Everyone is invited to participate in the campaign by wearing a white ribbon to symbolize a commitment to stopping violence against others throughout October, the VA said in a statement announcing the campaign.
“White Ribbon VA promotes positive cultural change and a respectful, safe and welcoming health care environment for patrons, volunteers and visitors in VA health care settings and surrounding communities,” said VA Secretary Robert Wilkie. “It is critically important everyone, including VA employees, feel welcome and physically and emotionally safe at all VA facilities. This means creating an environment that is free from incidents of all types of harassment, including sexual and discriminatory harassment. VA will not tolerate behaviors that create an intimidating, offensive or hostile atmosphere.”
According to the statement, the campaign was inspired by the White Ribbon organization. A leader in gender-based violence prevention, the White Ribbon organization promotes gender equity and healthy relationships.
As part of the campaign, the VA is collaborating with community partners to educate and help veterans, as well as “examine the far-reaching impact and implications of harassment, sexual assault and domestic violence by pledging to never commit, excuse or stay silent about sexual harassment, sexual assault or domestic violence,” the statement read.
The VA is focusing specifically on inappropriate touching and comments about appearance, the use of condescending derogatory names, as well as providing extra individual space and understanding that “invisible wounds” and difficult experiences could exist without one’s knowledge.
“Leading by example through my thoughts, words and actions…remembering every single person expects courteous treatment or RESPECT” are also messages being included in the campaign.
“The campaign also challenges negative, outdated concepts and inspires people to understand and embrace being part of positive change through awareness-raising, capacity-building, partnerships, outreach, technical assistance and other educational opportunities,” the statement read.
White Ribbon VA will continue to add additional support for the Stand Up to Stop Harassment Now! Campaign. Launched in fall 2019 in VA health care facilities nationwide, the Stand Up to Stop Harassment Now! Campaign seeks to “advance a culture where harassment is never tolerated.”
Since 2014, the VA has been dedicated to promoting safe, healthy relationships for Veterans, their intimate partners and VA staff through the Intimate Partner Violence Assistance Program.