By Staff Sgt. Antwaun ParrishApril 4, 2014
CAMP ARIFJAN, Kuwait -- Soldiers of Camp Arifjan were up very early this morning, just like every morning that includes a 5k race, but this one was a little different. This race was a part of the Army's initiative, of a month-long effort, to bring Soldiers together and raise awareness to sexual assault and its ramifications on the military force.
The Camp Arifjan leadership, along with Sexual Harassment and Response Program (SHARP) representatives, developed the activities for April, which is designated as Sexual Assault Awareness month, in order to help prevent, respond and provide assistance to stop sexual assault within its ranks.
Shortly following the 5k there was a cake cutting ceremony, which has been a staple in the military community, symbolizing the official beginning of Sexual Assault Awareness month.
"Here we are on deployment, which can bring stress on you, but it's having events like this that help raise morale," said Spc. Jesus Meraz, a native of Rockford, Ill., and currently serving as a supply specialist assigned to 108th Sustainment Brigade.
Although Meraz enjoyed the 5k race, he took a moment to point out the seriousness of what this month means to the Army and how it affects Soldiers.
"It's [sexual assault prevention] a number one priority in the Army," said Meraz. "It affects every person here today. One in five women and one in six men are assaulted, and that's from people who report it. Out of your family members or friends it?'s likely that you know someone who has been sexually assaulted."
Sgt. 1st Class Latonya Robinson, a sexual assault response coordinator assigned to 1st Theater Sustainment Command, handed out participation shirts at the end of the race and narrated a short ceremony for the cake cutting event. She expressed her enthusiasm for the event and its cause.
"It [sexual assault awareness month] will let Soldiers know what services are out there for them and who their SHARP representatives are for each unit," said Robinson.
Brig. Gen. Elizabeth Austin, USARCENT chief logistics officer, was the key speaker at the cake cutting ceremony and offered supporting words and a challenge to leadership to prevent, assist victims of sexual assault and to hold offenders accountable.
"We must recommit to ending this devastating crime," said Austin. "We must confront and change insensitive attitudes."
Within the month ahead Camp Arifjan will host many awareness and prevention activities, such as a 12 mile ruck march, a talent show, scavenger hunt, and a chemlight vigil. Robinson said she wants everyone to participate and be involved.
For additional information or assistance contact your unit SHARP representative or USARCENT's SHARP office at DSN 318-430-3453.