The Minnesota National Guard held a first-of-its kind event Thursday in Arden Hills, Minn., to raise awareness about sexual assault.
The private event inside the Arden Hills Armory featured National Guard members who are survivors of sexual assault who shared their stories with a crowd of hundreds of fellow members.
Maj. Gen. Jon Jensen, the Minnesota National Guard's senior leader, said the Guard wanted to raise awareness about sexual assault after officials released numbers that showed an increase in sexual assault reports over the last five years.
"My hope is that today's event allows us to have a more open and public discussion about sexual assault in our state," Jensen said. "Our soldiers and airmen come from every corner of the state and our challenges and struggles are the same challenges and struggles that exist across the state."
There were 90 total reports over the last five years, which Jensen said represents less than one percent of the Minnesota National Guard's personnel. Jensen also noted that not all of the reported sexual assaults occured while members were actively serving in the Minnesota Guard.
Jensen said the Minnesota National Guard's 13,000 members will undergo more extensive bystander training in the future.
"This event and the transparency that comes with open dialogue is important to us as we join the effort to bring sexual assault and survivor support to the forefront of community discussion," Jensen said.
Jensen said it may be that there aren't more sexual assaults, but rather an increase in reports in part because of the #MeToo movement.