WIESBADEN, Germany - When Staff Sgt. Nikita Wilson got the chance to become a Sexual Harassment and Assault Response and Prevention victim advocate last year, she was happy to accept.
Her reasons stemmed from a harrowing night in 2008 when she was harassed, threatened and assaulted not once, but twice, and the downward spiral that experience started in her life. Wilson managed to find help and emerged from the ordeal ready to help others. She detailed her story before a crowd of roughly 1,200 people during training at the Wiesbaden Fitness Center April 3.
"It is so important that we get back to treating each other well, whether we are service members or civilians or family members," Wilson told the standing-room-only crowd. "We all have to treat each other with dignity and respect. It does not matter what that woman wears. It does not matter how much she had to drink. It does not matter what that man's sexual preference is. If he does not clearly give consent, or if she does not clearly give consent, that means hands off, period."
Wilson was one of several speakers to participate in U.S. Army Garrison Wiesbaden's Ready and Resilient Training with SHARP focus, which kicked off with an early morning five-kilometer run. April is the U.S. Army's Sexual Assault Awareness Month, and the event was one of several planned throughout the month to raise awareness about sexual assault in the military. Subject matter experts from the Judge Advocate General, CID, mental health and other agencies also spoke during the event and provided information.
"Whether you're a private or whether you're a four-star general, we all have an area of influence," Wilson said, "and we're all leading someone, whether we know it or not."
The training also included a skit called "How SHARP are You?" that addressed rape myths, communication, bystander intervention and the importance of self-defense techniques. In another skit, a man plied a woman with alcohol, took her home and raped her. Another skit addressed the all-too-common role of alcohol in sexual assaults by showing a party scene and asking audience members, "Is this your barracks on the weekend?"
Col. David Carstens, U.S. Army Garrison Wiesbaden commander, noted that while overseeing the garrison's Sexual Assault Review Board, he has learned that no one is completely safe from sexual assault -- even people who do not drink.
"If you're a male Soldier, and you're sitting out there saying, 'This does not apply to me,' you're wrong," Carstens said. "If you are a civilian, and you're sitting out there going, 'This does not apply to me in this community,' you're wrong. If you're sitting out here and you're going, 'Well, I only date local nationals. Clearly this cannot happen to me,' you're wrong. If you say, 'Well, I don't drink, so clearly I can't be put in this situation. This cannot happen to me in this community,' you're wrong."
Carstens said it would be nice if he could identify a certain subset of the community, such as young Soldiers in the barracks, to which sexual assault only happens, but he cannot. "There is no commonality," he said. "There is no thread that I can say, 'OK, a third of you can leave because this does not apply.'"
People can act and not put themselves in situations highlighted during the skits, Carstens said. People can also tell others not to put themselves in those situations.
The event's keynote speaker was Allyson Cardoni, who has held positions including former clinical medical coordinator Sexual Assault Forensic Examiner program at the Tripler Army Medical Center in Hawaii, forensic nurse, professor of forensic science and nurse practitioner. She has conducted more than 1,000 sexual assault exams.
Cardoni, who outlined the process through which victims of sexual assault can go after reporting an assault, also outlined a case she worked on three years ago involving a 19-year-old Soldier who was a victim of sexual assault. She did not mention any names.
Although the Soldier could not initially remember what had happened to her, it became apparent after tests that a couple had given her a sedative in a non-alcoholic drink at a barbecue and had sexually assaulted her, Cardoni said.
The couple was eventually convicted on charges related to the rape and the Soldier moved back to the mainland, received help and is doing well, Cardoni said. Her story highlighted the importance of keeping restricted reports restricted, and not sharing information with CID or a Soldier's command, for example, unless and until the victim agrees.
Brig. Gen. Bruce Crawford, commander of the 5th Signal Command, said he watched the faces of those around him during the training and noted the appalled looks. In almost every great challenge the nation has faced, people have looked to the military to help fix it, so if the military cannot fix the problem of sexual assault, Crawford asked the audience, "Who will? What's going to be required is leadership, just plain and simple, good old-fashioned leadership. What's going to be required is that we step forward, whether you are the lowest ranking private or the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff or a member of our most senior leadership."
The garrison has a 24-hour sexual assault hotline, and people can call (0162) 2966741 to report a sexual assault or to talk to someone about a sexual assault. People can also contact the Military Police at mil 114 or civ (0611) 705-5096. Contact the Behavioral Health Clinic at mil 337-7991 or
civ (0611) 705-7991.