Servicemembers walk for sexual assault awareness
(First row left to right) Sgt. Juan Deluna, Cpl. Crystalee Munoz, Lisa Thomas, Cpl. Fausto Rodriguez and Cpl. Cedric Reed at the Sexual Assault Awareness Month Walk on D.C. on April 7.

The Sexual Assault Awareness Month Walk on D.C. took place April 7. Servicemembers and civilians gathered at Freedom Plaza, Washington, D.C. to show their support for eliminating sexual assault.

Marines from Headquarters and Service Battalion, Headquarters Marine Corps, Henderson Hall joined with members of the Army, Air Force and Navy marching up Pennsylvania Avenue from 14th Street to the Capitol building holding signs and chanting ''no means no."

Sexual assault response coordinators from the National Capital Area, including Stacy Johnston from the Defense Intelligence Agency, Lisa Thomas from Henderson Hall, Jean Wertman from Anacostia Naval Station, D.C., and Linda Schmid from Patuxent River, Md., and Dahlgren, Va., worked together to organize the walk in D.C.

A District of Columbia Police squad escorted the walkers to a U.S. Senate plaza. Rear Adm. Michael Brown, director of the Navy Staff's Personal Readiness and Community Support Branch and Alisha Cole, director of Sexual Assault Response and Awareness Program at the Office on Women in Alexandria, Va., addressed issues of awareness, victim care and prevention.

Cole is a survivor of sexual assault and a victims' advocate who speaks out in order to help other survivors.

''If I tell my story and I help one other person who listens to my story, then that's what I need to do," she said.

''Victims are real people, we're your neighbors, your friends, your sister, people you work with."

''For an actual victim to come out here and tell her story is a good way to encourage us to stop these things happening in the future," said Cpl. Juan Deluna, H & S Bn., Henderson Hall.

''Sexual assault is something very difficult to talk about and I think the speakers have a lot of inner strength and courage to come out and speak to us about situations they've been through and dealing with themselves," said Cpl. Crystalee Munoz, H&S Bn., Henderson Hall.

''I thought [the event] was very good."

Brown shared with the audience how the crime of sexual assault had touched his Family as recently as last summer.

''I tell you my story because I'm working through it in my own mind." the admiral said.

''It's a crime. It starts with harassment ... little things."

The services are committed to increasing the awareness of sexual assault because the only way to combat the crime is to have everyone understand the dynamics.

When a bad situation is developing, bystanders have an opportunity to intervene. We depend on those folks to watch out for the safety of our shipmates, fellow Marines, Sailors and Soldiers.

''I thought is was very touching and very informative. The next time they have a walk I want to definitely be in the front," said Cpl. Cedric Reed from H & S Bn., Henderson Hall.

''The walk was for a great cause. It actually taught me a lot and made me more aware of the problem of sexual assault," said Lance Cpl. Anthony Quinones from, H&S Bn., Henderson Hall said,

To close the event Wertman took the lid off a small box she carefully carried during the walk.

Like many survivors, the butterflies were slow to fly away after being released.

The walk symbolizes the journey survivors must make so that they can change and be free to fly like butterflies.

Page last updated Mon April 18th, 2011 at 15:47