The early sun pours in while Kaiserslautern Military Community members welcome U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. George Linen with a relaxed applause.
The 786th Civil Engineer Squadron electrical systems supervisor and sexual assault survivor, takes center-stage in front of his leadership and speaks, anger coloring his voice: “I’ve spent hours in the shower trying to wash off your possession from my skin. Trying to justify a claim on a body that isn’t yours and then I can still feel your hands on my wrist…”
Quietly, forks from breakfast are put down and all eyes observe Linen.
In order to best convey their message, the 86th Airlift Wing Chaplain Corp and Ramstein Sexual Assault Prevention and Response office wanted to leave KMC leaders with a thought-provoking performance during the SAPR Leadership Breakfast, April 12 at Ramstein Air Base. Approximately 100 people attended the event as U.S. Army Col. William S. Galbraith, 21st Theatre Sustainment Brigade deputy commanding officer, and Col. Joseph H. Wenkcus, 86th Airlift Wing vice commander, joined together to raise awareness about sexual violence.
“True leaders understand we work too hard fighting for a free nation to let actions like sexual assault and harassment impede our mission and destroy our most precious assets, our people,” Galbraith said. “I ask you in this room, to lead from the front. Be present in the discussions on sexual assault and harassment prevention methods. Let your zero-tolerance policy on these actions reflect throughout your units.”
In recognition of Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month, 86th AW and 21st TSB leaders signed a proclamation promising to educate others on the importance of protecting our people.
Our people are the most important part of our mission, Wenckus said, and statistically one out of four women and one out of six men will be affected by sexually assault in their lifetime.
In an aim to deliver a powerful performance, Linen paired up with Senior Airman Vanessa Vann, 603rd Air Operations Center knowledge manager, to write the original piece named, “Speak.” The duo focused their theme on the transformation from victim to survivor:
“So I’m speaking from the ashes,
I am fire without matches.
I am a change to the culture,
And we will starve these vultures.
is their weakness,
from me speaking.
I am a 12 round, contender.
I remove power, from the offender,
and give strength, to the victims.
I am a second chance, to life,
I am a Survivor.
“Even though we’re writing this poem to hit a spectrum of people this could happen to,” Linen explains, “Some of them are personal stories we put into the poem. So it took a long time to actually write because each session kind of ended emotionally.” Linen, now a victim advocate, stands tall delivering his final lines:
“Knowing is half the battle and,
We know rape, doesn’t have a face.
Sexual assault, doesn’t come in a form of
Sexual preference, age, gender, or race.
And hey! You don’t ever get to call us victims weak,
Because we are survivors,
And we get back to the person we once were,
Soldiers, Airmen and civilian atten-dees stand up in unison, breaking the silence with a standing ovation.
Through all military members and their families’ dedication, KMC leaders hope to open safe dialogues of conversation and enforce the prevention of sexual offenses.
“When trying to change that culture of what’s okay to be said — you get a little bit of push-back,” Linen said. “But it’s crazy how just one voice can slowly change an entire atmosphere.”
If you or someone you know has been sexually assaulted, contact the SAPR office at 480-7272 or 0172-821-4871. For any administrative questions, or to become a victim advocate, contact 480-5597.