Service members across the greater KMC know much work remains to be done before the lingering problems of sexual assault and sexual harassment are wiped out. A weeklong series of public awareness events pledged to help curb the unacceptable behaviors culminated in a community-wide event at Rhine Ordnance Barracks, April 3.
“It starts at the very highest level,” said U.S. Army Col. Stephen Richmond, commander of the 10th Army Air and Missile Defense Command, who addressed a group of service members at Vogelweh’s Galaxy Theater.
Soldiers from the 10th AAMDC and members of other KMC units spent much time over the previous week learning more about the Army’s Sexual Harassment and Assault Response and Prevention program, otherwise known as SHARP. The emphasis has been heavy because greater awareness and measures are needed to curb such incidents that continue to affect the armed forces.
Sexual Assault Response Coordinators helped facilitate the events. For many, the awareness began with a showing of the 2012 documentary “The Invisible War,” focusing on sexual assault in the U.S. military. While sobering in several instances, the film and related discussions throughout the week are what the coordinators of the events had in mind.
“I wanted them to talk about it. We don’t want to allow an environment where any perpetrators can feel comfortable,” said U.S. Army Sgt. 1st Class Michael Browley, the 10th AAMDC’s victim advocate.
Topics covered during the many lectures and focus groups included assault prevention tips, a “rape myth” survey that examined popular misconceptions, photos and images in the popular culture that can demean others and the different ways to report incidents that are available to service members.
The community-wide event held at ROB featured leaders pledging their commitment to stamp out the sexual assault and harassment problems that can ruin lives and leave victims feeling demeaned, helpless and hopeless. U.S. Army Brig. Gen. Paul M. Benenati, commanding general of the 7th Civil Support Command, presided over the event. A cake-cutting followed that highlighted these renewed efforts, and ended with a short walk that fostered solidarity in tackling these serious problems.
“Soldiers are Soldiers, and all Soldiers are to be treated fairly and equally,” said Benanati, emphasizing that everyone deserves a safe environment free of victimization. Representatives from community advocacy offices around the KMC were also available to talk with service members and distribute relevant contact and assistance information.
U.S. Army Pvt. Shanon Lautenschlager, a human resource specialist with U.S. Army Garrison, Kaiserslautern, was grateful for the resources put at the disposal of service members during the week, and quick to mention how it awakened his own calling.
“I hope to be a SARC/SHARP representative later in my Army career,” he said.
Others agreed that while the issues aren’t likely to vanish overnight, an important call to arms was taken during the week that will renew the joint effort across the KMC.
“Let’s do our part to rid this cancer,” Richmond said.