By Sgt. Adam KeithApril 8, 2014
CAMP ARIFJAN, Kuwait - A new tool in the fight against sexual assault and harassment was unveiled on Camp Arifjan with the ribbon cutting of a 24-hour sexual harassment/assault response and prevention center, April 7.
The center, the first of its kind in a deployed area, provides a physical location where victims can seek assistance at anytime and houses a 24-hour sexual harassment and assault hotline.
Lt. Gen. James L. Terry, U.S. Army Central commanding general and speaker at the event, said the ribbon cutting ceremony was an important milestone.
"Victims of sexual assault tend to be younger, more junior soldiers, who in this deployed environment may not have personal phones or they may not want to use the office phone for fear someone may be listening," said Terry. "This ensures a physical location in theater manned 24-hours a day, seven days a week to provide support, services and care to victims of sexual harassment and assault."
Sgt. Antoinette E. Colcol, a physical therapy noncommissioned officer with the 452nd Combat Support Hospital and San Diego native, sang the national anthem at the event and said the ceremony impacted her on a personal level.
"Not only is it an honor to sing the national anthem, this event hits close to home because I'm very passionate about battling sexual assault and sexual harassment," said Colcol. "It has happened to some people I work with and people that are close to me. I've even been exposed to it."
"That culture has to change, and I believe that it can change," she added.
Colcol said the center's opening deserved to be celebrated because of the good that can come from the new facility.
"This is just the beginning, having the visibility is a good start and having an actual physical location can change the dynamic and remove some reluctance of coming forward from a victim," she said. "These crimes don't pick a specific day or time so having this place here and open all the time provides that piece of mind to any female or male that experiences sexual assault or harassment."
Maj. Marvin J. Brown, U.S. Army Central SHARP program manager (forward), said the facility and the hotline provide an important central location for victims.
"If you looked around USARCENT a few months ago you would see posters everywhere with all of the different unit's SHARP representative's numbers on it. If Soldiers needed our service they might not know which number to call," said Brown. "This gives them one location and one phone number to remember."
Brown said the response to the center has been very positive from all levels of leadership.
"Having this location and having all of these general officers come out to help us open this facility definitely sends a message that this is a priority and that this issue is important to leaders," said Brown.
Terry said the goal remains zero future victims in the ranks and the center is a step in that direction.
"I applaud the recent steps taken to increase public awareness, promote prevention, provide essential services to victims and hold accountable those who violate the very values that make the United States Army so strong, but there is still much work to be done," said Terry. "I challenge everyone here today to speak up and speak out against inappropriate sexual remarks, lewd behavior and sexual harassment. This type of conduct can lead to acts of sexual assault and violence and it violates all we stand for and who we are to our nation and her people."
The center is located on Camp Arifjan in building T-181 and the number to the 24-hour hotline is 430-SHRP (7477).