by Mary Ann Davis
U.S. Army Garrison Rheinland-Pfalz
If you could prevent a crime that affects one in three women and one in six men from happening, could you? Well, you can.
Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month is an annual effort to increase knowledge and recognition about the scope and impact of sexual assault to help prevent these crimes from occurring. This year’s SAAPM theme is “Protecting Our People Protects Our Mission.” It’s a call to action for our community members to work even harder to reduce, with the hope of eventually eliminating, sexual assault in our Armed Forces, said Amber Hutsell, U.S. Army Garrison Rheinland-Pfalz Sexual Harassment/Assault Response & Prevention Victim Advocate.
“Since sexual assault offenses are so personal in nature, victims may not report their incidents for several reasons: fear of retaliation or retribution, fear of others finding out, embarrassment, shame, thoughts that ‘they deserved it,’ and normalization of the behavior are common reasons why victims won’t report a sexual assault,” she said. “We just want to make sure that victims seeking assistance are taken care of.”
There are two different reporting options available to military members and family members who are victims of sexual assault — restricted and unrestricted, Hutsell said.
“For active-duty military members and their dependents 18 years and older, they can contact our SHARP 24/7 hotline at 0631-413-7280 or 53-SHARP to reach a Sexual Assault Response Coordinator or report it to their unit or brigade-level SARC or victim advocate. Individuals can also report straight to an emergency room; however, if possible, should go to Landstuhl Regional Medical Center, so their ability to file a restricted report is still an option. People can call the military police or Polizei as well. Civilian employee options are a little different, but the SHARP office can work with them to explain their options.”
In 2018, there were 75 unrestricted cases reported in the garrison footprint. During fiscal 2017, the military had 24 percent of restricted reports convert to unrestricted. In the early years of the Sexual Assault Prevention and Response program, that percentage was only 12 to 15. During fiscal year 2017, there were 3,567 military subjects whose cases were referred, meaning they were reviewed by military commanders for action. In those cases, there was sufficient evidence of a crime, she said.
So how can we prevent sexual assaults from occurring? Hutsell said intervention is key.
“Confront inappropriate behavior as soon as it begins. Be a good bystander. If you see something, say and do something. Do not be afraid to stop a potential incident by intervening to help remove the victim from the hostile environment, but try to avoid putting yourself in harm’s way,” she said.
Being a good bystanders can also mean contacting the appropriate authorities, whether that is an establishment manager or the authorities, the SHARP victim advocate advised.
“You should also watch your alcohol consumption and keep your drinks within your sight,” she said. “Watch out for your friends and others around you — we are all family overseas. And lastly, help to build a culture to eliminate the problem.”
This month, a SAAPM “What Were They Wearing” exhibit took place in the Kaiserslautern Military Community Center. The exhibit is an interactive experience to demonstrate that what people wear have nothing to do with sexual assault or sexual harassment. Mannequins were dressed in clothes that were either similar or actual clothing people were wearing when they were sexually assaulted or harassed. The exhibit is designed to end victim blaming and place the accountability on the perpetrators of the crimes, not the victims — no matter what they were wearing.
“We also had a place for people to write cards of support to our survivors. For those who are worried about what to write — a simple, ‘You are brave’ can help immensely,” Hutsell said. “We post these on our Survivor Card Wall in our Kleber office for our survivors. Many have said how much it helps them feel better about their decision to come forward.”
SHARP also handed out teal ribbons to signify those who want to “Be Part of the Solution.” Individuals can also pledge that they will be a good bystander and support and respect sexual assault survivors. People are encouraged to write their name and/or a message and post it on their boards to be a part of the display.
For more information or to speak with a SHARP victim advocate, visit the USAG RP SHARP Office on the second floor of Bldg. 3210, Kleber Kaserne from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday or call DSN 541-9029/9030 or civilian at 0611-143-541-9029/9030.
Other helping agencies include chaplains, Behavioral Health and Military and Family Life Counseling Program counselors. Assistance is also available through the Department of Defense Safe Helpline at 877-995-5247 or at safehelpline.org.
“Establishing an appropriate culture to help eliminate sexual assault involves a commitment from everyone,” Hutsell said. “Let’s use this opportunity to learn, understand and prevent sexual assault.”
by Mary Ann Davis