By Shayna Brouker, IMCOMFebruary 11, 2014
WIESBADEN, Germany - "If you could keep one person safe, who would it be?" asks the petite woman of a roomful of military police men and women. "Bring that person to your mind's eye and constantly reflect on that person throughout this training."
"I can't change the whole world, not on my own" said Jennifer Quain, a trained sexual assault victim advocate and prevention educator, during the rape culture and consent awareness class. "But if I can convince you to say, 'I'm going to stop using the words slut or whore to stop rape culture,' I'll take it."
Staff Sgt. Kasey Trapp, a platoon sergeant for the 529th Military Police Company, asked Quain to speak with his platoon for the company's weekly Sexual Harassment/Assault Prevention and Response Program, known as SHARP, training after hearing about her background through word of mouth.
"When you have 21-plus years of learning one thing, it might take seeing something else every week to get it ingrained," Trapp said. "But this week we wanted to try something new, something proactive instead of reactive."
Quain was trained through the Missouri State Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence and Phelps County (Mo.) Family Crisis Services as a victim advocate for domestic and sexual violence, a hospital sexual assault advocate and a prevention educator. During her job at a women's shelter, she spoke at more than 200 public venues in a given year about prevention of intimate partner and sexual violence.
This marks her first time speaking with Soldiers. She requested they wear civilian clothes, not uniforms to encourage an open discussion.
Besides, rape is not an Army issue, she said; it's a human issue.
The goal is culture change, and it starts with individuals. Quain invites her class to take an honest look at the nitty-gritty, ugly roots of rape culture -- for example, misogynistic song lyrics -- and how individuals relate to them. Rape culture is defined as an environment in which sexual violence is considered the norm.
"Whenever I leave my house to walk my dog, I think about what kind of shoes I'm wearing and can I run fast enough in them. I think about the first number in my phone to call in case I'm attacked," she said. "Society teaches us, 'don't get raped' rather than 'don't rape.'"
The first segment of her training focuses on rape culture and how the media and social norms perpetuate violent language, thoughts and actions. The afternoon covers consent and what constitutes a "yes," along with how to actually talk about consent with a partner.
"Were you taught about consent in your sex ed class?" she asks. "Why is it so awkward to talk about consent? We have no examples of it in movies, music, etc.;" going on to show a clip from "The Little Mermaid" illustrating an example of lack of consent.
"There is one way to ask her / It don't take a word / Not a single word," croons Sebastian in Prince Eric's ear. "Go on and kiss de girl."
A questionnaire revealed almost all of the attendees said they found the training useful and recommended it for their service members.
Spc. Timothy Dawson said it inspired him to use "stronger force" to discourage his peers from objectifying women or using degrading language.
"I took a step back and saw how much we subconsciously take everything in," he remarked. "Media is brainwashing us. I see that a lot with my battle buddies."
Quain will teach another class in April during Sexual Assault Awareness Month, per the request of another platoon.