Fort Lewis play promotes discussion about rape
December 12, 2008
By Bob Reinert
FORT LEWIS, Wash. - Though he heard Amy say no, David didn't stop. Was it rape'
"What David does is what he wants at the expense of someone else," said Ben Murrie to the audience Dec. 4 at Four Chaplains Memorial Chapel.
Murrie was playing David in a scene about dating from "Sex Signals," the interactive play being performed through Dec. 18 on Fort Lewis. The show, presented by Catharsis Productions, is part of the Army's "I. A.M. Strong" campaign against rape - "Intervene, Act and Motivate" - launched in September.
Fort Lewis became the second Army installation to offer "Sex Signals," a 70- to 90-minute presentation that encourages audience participation to determine its direction and discuss the issues covered. The training targets Soldiers in the 18-25 age group in which date rape usually occurs.
"Just because she whispered it doesn't mean she doesn't want to stop," said a female Soldier in the audience of the Amy character, played by actor Courtney Abbott. "Maybe she was scared."
According to Lt. Col. Jeffrey Simpson, the I Corps Equal Opportunity officer, the performances, which began Dec. 1, have been well received on Fort Lewis.
"It is presented in a way that younger Soldiers can relate," Simpson said. "It totally supports the Army's new I. A.M. Strong campaign. Sexual assault is destroying our Army and nation, and it needs to be stopped."
In his introductory remarks to the audience before the play, Simpson noted that the Army doesn't tolerate sexual harassment or sexual assault.
"We're a band of brothers and sisters," Simpson said. "We've got to take care of each other."
The play began with David and Amy meeting in a bar. As they had drinks, David became overly aggressive.
"Has anybody ever seen something like this at a party before'" asked Murrie, breaking from the scene. "Has anybody stopped it'"
As the play unfolded, the actors frequently came out of character to discuss their actions with the audience. At this performance, the young Soldiers were attentive and responsive.
Though the presentation employs a great deal of humor and contemporary - sometimes strong - language, the message of "Sex Signals" is clear: Sexual assault is no laughing matter, and it's a Soldier's duty to prevent it.
"It's about stepping out, about showing you care about someone else," Murrie said.
Abbott reminded the audience that, though the stereotype might have rape occurring in some dark alley where the attacker and the victim are strangers, the reality is usually quite different.
"Actually, over 80 percent of the time," said Abbott, "the victim knows the attacker."
Bob Reinert is a reporter with Fort Lewis' Northwest Guardian.