Community speaks out against sexual assault
April 11, 2013
ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND, Md. - Team APG hosted a breakfast and open discussion forum called "It Time….To Talk About It!" a Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month event, April 3.
The event featured an expert panel of counselors and clinical social workers who opened the discussion and question-and-answer session by talking about their experiences working with victims of sexual assault. They discussed the factors that help a victim become a survivor, dealing with current situations, and the journey still ahead for those needing to resolve a problem, as well as ways to protect Family members and friends, talking to children about sex and opening the lines of communication so children feel comfortable discussing these topics with parents.
Panel members included Installation Chaplain (Lt. Col.) Jerry Owens; Dr. James Cartwright,` clinical social worker from the U.S. Army Public Health Command, Stephanie Powers, clinical counselor from Harford County Safety Awareness Resources Change, or SARC, Wendy Witmer, Kirk U.S. Army Health Clinic's chief of Behavioral Services, Gary Hardy, ASAP clinical director, and Dea Galloway, a Sexual Harassment/Assault Response and Prevention (SHARP) victim advocate and abuse survivor. Attendees were invited to ask questions in person, or anonymously.
1st Lt. Raisa Velez opened the program by saying that every two minutes someone is sexually assaulted in the United States.
"That tells us that we have a national problem that we need to solve together, it also tells us that it is likely that you know somebody that has been a victim of assault," she said.
Owens, who has provided counseling to sexual assault victims, encouraged sufferers to talk about the assault with someone they trust.
"We can overcome evil with good, "Owens said. "A forum like this helps people heal."
Cartwright said that children who have been victimized often communicate what happened to them during play time and in art, usually in drawings. Withdrawing from others and expressing anger are also common for victims.
Powers said that parents should have an open, honest dialogue with their children so they feel comfortable talking to their parents if an assault does happen.
Galloway added that parents need to know the adults that are around their children on a daily basis, and let them know that abuse will not be permitted. She also recommends not allowing alcohol into the home if children are present.
Hardy said that in 30 percent of reported domestic violence incidences alcohol is a contributing factor. He said some military spouses are afraid to report domestic violence for fear that their spouse will lose their job. He said that in the future he would like to see more forum discussions like the SAAM breakfast.
"One way we can be Army strong is by working together and sharing resources," he said. "We need to send a strong message as a community that this is not going to be tolerated."
Witmer, who has counseled people on sexual assault for over 30 years, said that she hopes that sexual abuse becomes less of a problem in her lifetime.
"Our attitudes toward rape and sexual assault have changed somewhat, but not enough," she said. "Hopefully we can get to the point where sexual assault is not an issue. Sexual assault is not about sex, it is about power and control."
Witmer also recommended that the audience go see the Invisible War, which explores the epidemic of rape in the military. The next screening of the Invisible War will be held on April 16 on APG South (Edgewood), Bldg. E2800 at 1 p.m.
Team APG will be hosting several SAAM events throughout April. To receive the calendar of events e-mail 1st Lt. Raisa Velez, firstname.lastname@example.org.
To report a sexual assault, call the Installation 24/7 hotline at 410-322-7154 or the DoD Safe Helpline at 1-877-995-5247.