Building trust within the military ensures service members are taken care of so they can take care of the mission. This month’s Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month speaks to that topic in this year’s theme — “SHARP: Shaping a Culture of Trust.”
“Sexual assault is an important topic because people don’t want to talk about it,” said Angela Taylor, U.S. Army Garrison Rheinland-Pfalz sexual assault response coordinator. “There are many victims who are too afraid or ashamed to come forward, but often it just takes one or two people to break the silence and encourage those who were afraid to come forward.”
Serving as a SARC since 2010, Taylor conducts sexual assault case management throughout the entire process, offering advocacy, service referrals, guidance and wrap-around support to victims, she said.
“I manage cases by working with command, legal, medical and investigative agencies and advocating for victims and their rights,” she said. “In addition to providing sexual assault victim advocacy services 24/7 through local hotline numbers, I continue to provide guidance and emotional support to victims during the entire legal process and as long as victims need to ensure their well-being.”
Being there for victims is crucial because if they feel shamed, judged or their integrity is questioned, it can make reporting difficult, Taylor said, and making victims feel comfortable reporting and pursuing justice without being victimized again can create positive change and build trust.
Over the years, sexual assault cases have gone down. According to the Rape Abuse Incest National Network, the rate of sexual assault and rape has fallen 63 percent since 1993 from a rate of 4.3 assaults per 1,000 people in 1993 to 1.6 per 1,000 in 2015. The Department of Defense showed a decline as well in the Annual Report on Sexual Assault in the Military for fiscal 2016. The report showed 14,900 service members were sexually assaulted in 2016, which was 5,400 fewer than the 20,300 sexual assault victim reports estimated in 2014. Although the sexual assault numbers are down and the reporting is up, there is still more work ahead, said Navy Rear Adm. Ann M. Burkhardt, director of the Department of Defense’s Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office, during a Pentagon briefing last year.
“The hard truth is still far too many of our people find their lives changed by this crime, and there are far too many who continue to suffer in silence,” the director said.
That is why education and prevention help shed light on sensitive subjects like sexual assault and harassment, Taylor said.
“We conduct prevention activities through training and outreach events to reduce sexual harassment and sexual assault, as well as building partnerships throughout the community,” she explained. “The more we talk about it, the more educated we become on the subject and the less we tolerate inappropriate comments and behavior.”
One of the best ways to prevent sexual harassment and sexual assault is through intervention, Taylor said. The key is learning how to intervene in a way that fits the situation and your comfort level.
“When inappropriate behavior or comments occur, people should do something or say something immediately. Do not stand by and tolerate demeaning or degrading behavior towards yourself or others. Ways to intervene are to engage directly by asking if the person wants to leave the situation, create a distraction, refer to authority — bartender, security guard, law enforcement — or enlist the help of others to approach a situation with you,” she said. “Everyone has a role to play in preventing sexual assault. One third of the time sexual assaults are preceded by sexual harassment; therefore, if we can stop behaviors and create an environment where such behavior is not tolerated, we can likely prevent sexual assault.”
There are several SAAPM events this month geared to inform and educate the community.
Courage Leadership Education Advocate Respect Challenge takes place from 6:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. April 20 at the Southside Fitness Center on Ramstein Air Base. The event is a team obstacle course meant to highlight sexual assault prevention and alcohol abuse. For more information, call 480-5597.
Round-Robin Training is offered from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. April 24 to 26 on Kapaun Air Station, second floor, Bldg. 2784. Unit Sexual Harassment/Assault Response and Prevention representatives will conduct annual SHARP training. Equal Opportunity, Suicide Awareness, Alcohol and Substance Abuse, Family Advocacy Program and Judge Advocate General training will also be offered. To enroll, email firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject line “Round Robin Sign-Up.”
SHARP Fun Run takes place from 6:30 a.m. to 10 a.m. — 7 a.m. start — April 27 on Rhine Ordnance Barracks. The event is open to all family members, DOD civilian employees, contractors and local nationals, no pets. Wearing teal attire is highly encouraged.
For more information about SAAPM events in the Kaiserslautern Military Community, contact your unit SARC.
To reach the USAG RP SHARP 24/7 Hotline, call 484-7280 or 0631-413-7280. Victims may also call the DOD Safe Helpline 24/7 at 94-877-5247, 001-877-995-5247 or 001-202-540-5962 (not a toll-free).