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NEWS | April 14, 2021

Sexual Assault Awareness Month - taking back the night

By Senior Airman Sarah Dowe 633d Air Base Wing Public Affairs

At JBLE, members of the Army’s Sexual Harassment/Assault Response and Prevention program (SHARP) and the Air Force Sexual Assault Prevention and Response team (SARC) worked to educate the community about the threat and recovery process of Sexual Assault during Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM).

“SAAM had its beginnings in 2001, but it wasn't until 2009 that April was officially made Sexual Assault Awareness Month,” said Kevin Parker, U.S. Army Installation Management Command, Installation SARC/SHARP. “Here at JBLE, you are supported, and we will do everything we can to provide the services a survivor needs. SHARP services don’t stop until the victim/survivor feels they no longer need them.”

SAAM stands as a sobering reminder of the widespread impact of sexual assault within our military ranks.

“I would like to share some facts from a recent report by the DoD SAPR office,” said U.S. Army Lt. Col. Brandon Hill, commander 11th Transportation Battalion, 7th Transportation Brigade (Expeditionary) on Fort Story, Virginia. “In fiscal year 2018, 20,500 service members were sexually assaulted or raped.”

Hill shared that 76.1 percent of military sexual assault victims in 2018 did not report the crime. Additionally, one-in-four victims that did not report feared retaliation from their command or coworkers and one-in-three victims that did not report feared the process would be unfair or that nothing would be done.

“Each one of us has a duty to help eradicate SHARP violations,” Hill said. “It is our responsibility to help prevent these crimes and, just as importantly, support and advocate for the survivors who bravely report these crimes forward.”

Bernadette Hardy, 633d Air Base Wing chief of SARP, mentioned that everyone can be affected by sexual violence no matter their gender, age, occupation or personal background. Therefore, the war against sexual violence requires the effort of everyone in the community.

“Whether it’s our own personal story of harm or the vicarious trauma of supporting someone who has been harmed, we are all impacted by sexual assault,” said Hardy. “One incident can impact unit cohesion, trust, effectiveness—which all impact our mission. We as a community must remain intolerant of behaviors, jokes, gestures, hazing, bullying and all other nonconsensual acts that are against our core values. We also must believe and support victims when they report and work on healing from the life-long impacts of sexual trauma.”

During a recent event on Fort Eustis called “Take Back the Night,” over 100 members of the 11th TB along with leadership members from the 7th TB(X) joined together and marched along different routes with signs, banners and shirts to raise awareness for SAAM.

“The event took place right behind the barracks, before the weekend as everyone was wrapping up their work week and preparing to enjoy the weekend,” said Army Spc. Orlon Miller, 331st Transportation Company, 11th TB. “The whole point was to be visible and I felt that we were successful.”

Before the event, Maj. Gen. Lonnie G. Hibbard, commanding general for the U.S. Army Center for Initial Military Training, gave a short speech thanking the event participants and volunteers. He also encouraged service members to take a stand to help prevent sexual assault within the ranks.

Personnel shared stories of how they or someone close to them had been affected by sexual assault, harassment or violence.

For one member, his mother had been sexually harassed for years growing up. She eventually moved away, married and gave birth to him. Sadly, years later, she succumbed to alcoholism from the trauma of her childhood and passed away.

At stop-points throughout the event, more survivors spoke about their experiences. They shared how they work and struggle every day to overcome their trauma.

“There is enough going on in the world that at the very least, we need to stick together as Soldiers,” Miller said. “This only becomes harder with the cancer that is sexual assault and harassment happening within our military. Dedicating an entire month echoes the importance of it.”

Following the march, participants united together, closing out the night with a chant of, “Not in my Army! Not in my Brigade! Not in my Battalion! Not in my Squad!”

Upcoming events for SAAM include:

- Virtual art competition
- Virtual “Walk a mile in their shoes”
- Understanding Adverse Childhood Experiences
- Virtual Yoga

SHARP/SAPR contact resources are available below.

SAPR: (757) 764-7272

SHARP: (757) 268-8967

For more information about sexual assault, harassment and reporting options visit: https://go.usa.gov/xHYK6
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