Sex Signals: focus of sexual assault prevention lecture
April 2, 2009
- New training in Sexual Assault and Sexual Harassment Prevention
- Being respectful around colleagues
- Opening up a new discussion about sexual assault
- Defining sexual assault and ways to prevent it
BAMBERG, Germany - Sex Signals was the title and double entendres were a key focus as more than 400 Soldiers at U.S. Army Garrison Bamberg were entertained and trained March 25.
The Army presented its newest training in Sexual Assault and Sexual Harassment Prevention with a humorous play, "Sex Signals," performed in an interactive atmosphere. However, despite the laughter, the underlying message was very serious. Sexual assault and harassment are not acceptable in today's Army.
Most people feel flirting is an innocent activity. They are right and then again they are wrong. Depending on the location and whether the person wants to be flirted with changes the dynamics of whether flirting is fun for both or sexual harassment for one.
A common form of flirting is the double entendre and it is rampantly used in Army circles. Unfortunately it can also be a form of sexual harassment.
Merriam Webster defines double entendre as (1) ambiguity of meaning arising from language that lends itself to more than one interpretation; (2) a word or expression capable of two interpretations with one usually risquAfA.
Merriam Webster defines risquAfA as verging on impropriety or indecency.
The two definitions show how easily flirting can become sexual harassment.
The program, created in 2000 by actors Christian Murphy and Gail Stern, was presented by Catharsis Productions, and according to the Web site www.thefire.org, "blends a unique combination of improvisation, humor and audience participation as a means of engaging audiences into an honest discussion about an otherwise difficult subject."
The knowledge of that difficult subject caused a palpable tension as Soldiers waited for the training to begin, but Bamberg troops were pleasantly surprised when actors Fawzia Mirzia and Chris Beier took the stage at the Reel Time Theater.
The actors introduced themselves and then began a series of vignettes in which they portrayed Soldiers out of uniform in a dance hall or bar environment. They acted as though he was trying to get her to go out with him on a date and requested members of the audience supply him with "pick-up lines."
The pick-up lines were full of double entendres specific to military jargon and although entertaining in this environment, they could be considered quite aggressive in others.
Using the lines from the audience, the two continued through a first meeting that displayed the clumsiness which often accompanies the dating scene.
Because the definition of rape is often the subject of much dissent, the play showed a variety of gender stereotypes: the nice guy; the brute; the shy guy, and for women there were the girl next door; the hussy; the quiet girl. In each vignette, the myths arose about whether someone was being sexually assaulted and despite each actor's attempt to keep things fun using audience participation, eventually the seriousness of the subject came home to roost.
It is never safe to assume anyone knows whether you are joking or serious with sexual comments and when in doubt, you should err on the side of caution.
That doesn't mean that you can't have fun, but being respectful of your date, whether male or female, means remembering that not everyone sees things the same way.
Below is a good example of the issues covered in this training. If you have any doubts about the answers, then you should visit www.preventsexualassault.army.mil, where you can find a comprehensive list of links pertaining to what sexual harassment and sexual assault are as well as prevention and response measures.
*What is the definition of rape'
*Should sexual consent be verbal, active and ongoing'
*When does a person have the right to withdraw sexual consent'
*Is the rapist the only person responsible for the rape'
*Is rape more than a crime' Is it a moral issue'
*Is sexual assault about power or sex'
*What are risk reduction strategies'
*What are the important differences between risk reduction strategies'
*If the rape cannot be prevented by bystanders, who has the responsibility of preventing the rape'
*Is rape about mixed messages or miscommunication'
*Can people who seem otherwise confident be intimidated or frightened in sexual situations'
*Representatives of the U.S. military, both men and women, whether on post or off, have a higher level of responsibility to intervene when they witness sexually aggressive behavior.
*Is a Soldier who rapes someone in violation of the Army core values'
*Is sexual innuendo a guarantee of, or consent for, sex'
*Do false stereotypes about how men and women are supposed to behave in sexual situations (i.e. all men want sex all the time; all women are teases or say no when they mean yes') increase the likelihood of rape'
"The success of this training is attributed to the support of our garrison command," said Karoushia Jordan, USAG Bamberg's sexual assault response coordinator.
From the program's inception, the garrison commander Lt. Col. Gary Rosenberg and Command Sgt. Maj. Bruce Lee were on board. Despite time restraints, full participation was pushed down from leadershio.
"I believe that the walk-away was consent," said Jordan, "Understanding that only a yes equals consent and it should be verbalized. It is not implied nor is it the lack of a no."
"Soldiers must know that respecting and protecting the dignity of others is the cornerstone of our institution and that preventing sexual assault and speaking up are the right things to do," said Gen. George W. Casey, Jr. on the Army's sexual assault Web site.
"It's about leadership. It's about discipline. And it's about building a band of brothers and sisters that can rely on one another," he added.
April is recognized as Sexual Assault Awareness Month. If you feel you are the victim of sexual assault or just want more information, please visit www.preventsexualassault.army.mil.