'Take Back the Night' rally brings sexual assault into the spotlight
April 24, 2009
CONTINGENCY OPERATING BASE SPEICHER, TIKRIT, Iraq - In a unified effort, nearly 500 servicemembers and civilians completed a 1.8-mile walk and attended a rally designed to bring awareness and promote a stand against sexual assault by "breaking the silence" during the 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division's Take Back the Night rally, April 11.
"If you are not willing to speak up for wrong doing, then you are willing to put up with anything and shouldn't complain," said Staff Sgt. Leah Sutherland, an NCO with the 211th Regional Support Group walking in the event. "We all have to at times do things that are uncomfortable -- we have to stand up to stop what is going on," she continued.
The walk was followed by a video presentation about sexual assault, from which participants learned that one in six women will be sexually assaulted in their lifetimes, and one in 33 men.
The finale was a 12-scene dramatization put on by Soldiers depicting various situations that lead to sexual assaults. The scenes included basic training, physical training, a company orderly room, a fraternity party, barracks, female Soldiers who had been sexually assaulted, and a man who considers suicide when he is confronted by other men about his sexual orientation.
"We are here to make a difference and to bring awareness to the invisible wounds and scars of victims of sexual assault on COB Speicher," said Sgt. 1st Class Keith Walker, the Brigade's equal opportunity advisor.
"There are many Soldiers that are here on COB Speicher that are more afraid of walking to the bathrooms at night then they are to go outside the wire to face our enemies-this is sad. It is our goal tonight to ensure that Soldiers are trained and leaders are aware of the problems that we face," he continued.
Among the many Soldiers of the brigade present for the training, battalion commanders and senior noncommissioned officers were also in attendance to listen and participate.
"When improvised explosive devices took over MND-North last year, we asked our nation for help, they sent billions of dollars and put mine resistant ambush protection vehicles everywhere to protect our Soldiers," said Col. Walter Piatt, the brigade commander.
"We created concrete factories to make T-walls at a greater rate than we could move them; we secured a land that could not be secured; we defeated an enemy that everyone said would not be defeated -- yet we cannot protect our Soldiers from ourselves," said Piatt, referring to Soldiers who sexually assault other Soldiers and challenging everyone to prevent such attacks.
"We have to learn how to be that friend, that Soldier that will be there for our comrades in need," he continued.
According to the website www.Take Back the Night.org, the event's roots may lie in 1877 when women protested the fear and violence they experienced at night in London, England.
Others believe that the first rally occurred in 1976 when women attending the International Tribunal on Crimes Against Women lit candles and took to streets of Belgium to denounce violence against women. The event made its way stateside in 1978 when protesters in San Francisco invoked the slogan following an anti-pornography conference.
"Take Back the Night creates an atmosphere of zero tolerance of sexual violence by serving as a collective voice to increase community awareness thru education, and providing leadership the tools to make a better environment for all who serve," said Piatt.
Soldiers responded enthusiastically to the training and explained techniques they learned from the event that they could use in their daily lives.
"Being sexually assaulted can happen to anyone - I believe that everybody needs to keep their eyes open -- always having a battle buddy, while making sure that the person you choose to watch out for you, has your best interest in mind," Sgt. Ashley Moore, awards clerk, Headquarters Company, 325th Brigade Support Battalion.