By Mrs. Melissa K Buckley (Leonard Wood)March 28, 2014
The Army's sexual assault training consultant's remarks were frank and open to commanders and leaders attending Fort Leonard Wood's Sexual Assault Response Team Seminar Thursday.
Bridget Ryan, a highly qualified expert assigned to the Trial Counsel Assistance Program of the Army's Office of Judge Advocate General, said her main message to those attending the seminar was understanding victims of sexual assaults.
"Anytime I can get an audience with the people on the ground, the ones who are dealing with the victims and the offenders, it's important. This topic is not as clear-cut as many think," said Ryan, who has more than 20 years of experience prosecuting domestic violence and sexual assault cases in the civilian court system and now provides technical assistance and training to Army trial counsels on sexual assault, domestic violence and child abuse cases.
Ryan stressed the main idea she wanted leaders to take away from her session was that a victim should not be disbelieved because their behavior doesn't make sense.
"A lot of the behaviors in sexual assault cases just don't make sense. Like why would a victim not report, why would they text their rapist after an attack or why didn't they fight back. There is a whole host of reasons that those things occur and it has nothing to do with the fact that they aren't credible," she said.
Some of the topics she talked about were: what sex offenders often say, who the victims are, common challenges with credibility, memory and trauma, why victims recant and counterintuitive behavior.
"Counterintuitive behavior is something that doesn't make sense to us," Ryan said. "When you are hearing these stories, when you are trying to figure out why, just keep an open mind."
Behavior like drinking to the point of passing out or having forced sexual relations may be viewed as a common occurrence in today's society, but Ryan said the Army is leading the way in changing that way of thinking.
"The Army has more rules and are holding people accountable. We have recognized that this is a problem and we are leading the way by putting a whole lot of manpower into trying to rectify that. I don't see that happening in the civilian world," she said.
Ryan said she hopes commanders, leaders and noncommissioned officers in attendance take her message and share it with others.
First Sgt. Tiffany Johnson, first sergeant for D Company, 1st Battalion, 48th Infantry Regiment, said getting information from Ryan on what an offender looks like was insightful.
"The best part of the seminar was Ms. Ryan's presentation and understanding the different personas," Johnson said.
"It was very interesting to take a look at why your best Soldier, or who you thought was your best Soldier, can hide the fact that they could be an offender. We shouldn't be surprised when that's the Soldier who commits the crime," added Johnson.
"I really appreciate you all spending your whole day listening to the different parts of the system, because all of the parts are important. Hopefully, this carries forward so you can carry this message out. It should be everybody in the military's goal to do what we can about the problem of sexual assault," Ryan said.
Johnson said her biggest take away from the seminar was that first sergeants and commanders are the ones who are going to make the biggest effect on the change and implementing prevention within units.