Comforting the afflicted, afflicting the comfortable
August 8, 2014
CAMP ARIFJAN, Kuwait -- The shocking words read by actors during a dramatic reading of the play "Tape" provided a unique Sexual Assault/Harassment Response and Prevention training event for U.S. Army Central and Area Support Group- Kuwait Soldiers and civilians here Aug. 5.
SHARP reinforces the Army's commitment to eliminate incidents of sexual assault through a comprehensive policy that centers on awareness and prevention, training and education, victim advocacy, response, reporting and accountability.
"I hope you suffer on your way to death," read Erica Newhouse, the actress playing a suspected rape victim.
This is the first time that Outside the Wire, a performance company that addresses pressing issues through live theater and discussion, has executed this specific play and topic as an educational foundation for sexual assault education.
"This is the premiere of this particular project," said Bryan Doerries, Outside the Wire artistic director. "One of the objectives of this performance is to engage the audience in an open discussion about sexual assault and sexual harassment; to present a story and a set of questions Soldiers might look back upon when they face similar situations later."
While the topic of the play is contentious and crude, it caused the reaction they intended.
"Tape" was not written for educational value; it is provocative and slightly profane, said Doerries. However, it was a successful catalyst to the SHARP training, allowing the audience to have a common experience of disgust that fueled an in-depth discussion afterwards.
"My hope is that your last living sensation be that of a steel rod being shoved repeatedly up your insides, so that it batters your heart and punctures your stomach," Newhouse continued reading.
The reading of the play was intended to spark an open dialogue, said Doerries. The performance also created a feeling of empathy and compassion for victims intended to remain with Soldiers throughout their military career.
"The fear in the voice of the actors creates a realistic and personal experience for Soldiers," said Sgt. 1st Class Melisha Wilson, 1st Sustainment Command (Theater) sexual assault response coordinator. "This type of training environment gave Soldiers the confidence to speak about these issues, not just in the audience today, but also when they go back to their units and home stations."
This one-of-a-kind training experience allowed Soldiers to realize their own position on ethics and what it means to live up to the Warrior Ethos.
"Our hope is to help Soldiers evaluate their own values of right and wrong, which will convey a more valuable lesson to them than telling them what we know to be right and wrong," said Doerries. "We explored what it means to struggle with our values, whether it is Army values or moral, religious and family values."
Soldiers are required to attend SHARP training annually, as sexual assault and harassment causes damage far beyond the victim; it compromises the integrity of the team, shatters the confidence Soldiers have in one another, and undermines unit readiness.
"SHARP focuses on bystander intervention," said Doerries. "My hope is that we can contribute to the culture change by creating an open environment where Soldiers talk and are heard."
"This is probably some of the most effective SHARP training any of us have experienced," said Maj. Gen. Darrell K. Williams, 1st Sustainment Command (Theater), commanding general. "While this is a concentrated issue, 99 percent of our Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, Coast Guard, Marines and civilians are doing the right thing every day; Reporting that one-percent of service members who act inconsistent with our Army values will aid in the mission to reduce sexual assault and harassment."
In addition to this dynamic training, the 1st TSC commander and command sergeant major are scheduled to sign a pledge of absolute support and dedication to the prevention and education of sexual assault and harassment. This pledge, currently scheduled to be signed early September, re-enforces a personal commitment to zero-tolerance.
"As individuals and as an organization, we have come a long way in educating and informing our service members," said Command Sgt. Maj. Nathaniel J. Bartee Sr., 1st TSC senior enlisted advisor. "Every Soldier, noncommissioned officer, officer and DoD civilian has a duty, not only to live the Army values, but to enforce and hold those accountable that do not."
Units here are progressively increasing awareness and prevention of sexual assault and harassment by aggressively implementing SHARP policies and utilizing creative training techniques, in an effort to reduce and eliminate the impact of behavior inconsistent with the Army values.