By Mrs. Melissa K Buckley (Leonard Wood)April 4, 2014
Commanders and leaders across Fort Leonard Wood came together, March 27 for a candid -- and sometimes vivid seminar -- to gain a better understanding of sexual assault and harassment.
"The problem of sexual assault in our ranks is one of the most important issues facing the Army today. We must work to ensure that the command can identify, investigate and ultimately punish those who commit crimes in our Army," said Capt. Tyler Heimann, Fort Leonard Wood Special Victim prosecutor.
The Maneuver Support Center of Excellence Office of the Staff Judge Advocate hosted the Sexual Assault Response Team Seminar at Lincoln Hall Auditorium.
"Commanders gained a new understanding of offenders and learned to not stereotype those who commit these crimes or those who are victims. They also left with a better understanding of the level of trauma a victim goes through," Heimann said. "Commanders and noncommissioned officers-in-charge were educated about the resources available to sexual assault victims by taking them through all the agencies and resources available as part of the Sexual Assault Response Team."
Maj. Gen. Leslie Smith, Maneuver Support Center of Excellence and Fort Leonard Wood commander, opened the seminar by saying that fathers and mothers trust the Army with their children and expect them to be taken care of.
"It is a sacred trust when you are a commander or a first sergeant of an organization," Smith said. "I trust you ladies and gentlemen to do your job. The Army trusts you do your job."
Speakers from the Special Victims Unit and the General Leonard Wood Army Community Hospital walked attendees through what it is like to be a victim from the attack all the way through the trial.
Heimann discussed the court-martial activity at Fort Leonard Wood for the past two years and the changes to be expected going forward.
Bridget Ryan, Senior Executive Service and Highly Qualified Expert, Trial Counsel Assistance Program Fort Belvoir, Va., spoke about understanding victim behavior.
"We have to give these victims tools. We have to let them know that we will keep an open mind," Ryan said.
She also talked about the profile of a predator.
"Most rapists have done it before and will do it again," Ryan said. "We see a lot of rapists who don't take responsibility for their actions. Many times, they also have a complete lack of empathy for their victims."
Other topics were the restricted and unrestricted reporting process and the challenges and perspectives in investigating sexual assault case.
Capt. Ryan Jokerst, Forward Support Company, 5th Engineer Battalion commander, said he thought the seminar and the presentations were well done and a good overview for everyone.
"Learning new methods to combat sexual harassment and sexual assaults within our ranks is always a good thing," Jokerst said.
Capt. Abigail Ford, Company B, 169th Engineer Battalion commander, agreed.
"I was very impressed by the speakers and the experts who were brought in, especially Ms. Ryan. She was great. I really appreciated the education aspect of the seminar. My biggest take away from the seminar was the facts about how we re-victimize people, it's kind of sobering," Ford said.
Another Sexual Assault Response Team Seminar is already being planned for next year, according to Heimann.