By Andrea Stone (Fort Carson)June 5, 2014
FORT CARSON, Colo. -- The statistics are stunning. Every two minutes a sexual assault occurs in the U.S. One in four women will be a victim of sexual assault in her lifetime. One in 33 men will be a victim of an attempted or completed rape in his lifetime.
The statistics were one piece of what Soldiers from the 759th Military Police Battalion learned when they conducted a Sexual Harassment/Assault Response and Prevention stand down at McMahon Auditorium, May 30, 2014.
The goal was to create an environment where sexual harassment and assault don't happen.
"The only way we can stop (it) is if you act, if you step up, you protect your battle buddies. You protect your battle buddies downrange. Why not look out for each other here?" said Capt. Moriah Day, battalion SHARP representative.
Helping victims feel safe enough to report harassment and assault is a critical part of changing the culture.
"What we're trying to do is create a culture and an environment where the victim actually feels safe enough to come forward and know that you, as a battle buddy, are going to say something and stand up and stop it, versus the perpetrator feeling safe in our environment and feeling like they can continue to act," said 1st Lt. Edward McHenry, operations officer in the provost marshal's office, 148th MP Detachment, 759th MP Bn.
During the training, Soldiers learned what constitutes harassment and assault.
"Sexual talk, sexual innuendo, inappropriate conversations like that, do not belong in the workplace, whether somebody feels sexually harassed or not," Day said.
Other topics discussed included some of the myths related to sexual assault, the options of restricted versus unrestricted reporting and the process for unrestricted reporting.
Restricted reporting allows a victim to get counseling and medical care, but does not involve law enforcement or the chain of command. Unrestricted reporting requires notification of the chain of command and law enforcement.
"We would like victims to go through the unrestricted (process) so we can weed out possible offenders within our formations. But we're going to make sure they know that they have that choice available to them -- to go restricted or to go unrestricted," said 1st Lt. Louisa White, Headquarters and Headquarters Detachment, 759th MP Bn., who taught the sexual assault class.
Soldiers also learned that more than 80 percent of sexual assaults are perpetrated by someone the victim knows. They learned warning signs to watch for to avoid sexual assault, such as sexually charged comments, encouraging someone to drink too much, inappropriate touching and attempting to isolate someone.
"In most cases, it is a person that they know. It is a person that they're familiar with. It is a person that they became comfortable with, that they gave trust to," White said.
One of the high points of the day was the testimony of two Soldiers who had been sexually assaulted.
"This is … one of the better events that I've seen," said Capt. Zacharie Wert, HHD, 759th MP Bn. "The most impactful portion of it has been listening to the victims tell their stories. I think once we kind of put a face to a (story), it makes it more crucial for people to intervene."
Pfc. Kayla Heritage, 110th MP Company, 759th MP Bn., agreed.
"Seeing them talk and be brave enough to get up there was one of the best things I've been through," she said.
In addition to the testimony, Soldiers had an opportunity to role-play during a sexual harassment scenario, watch a sexual assault scenario and discuss possible responses to harassment and assault situations.
"I think that's the most important part of what we did today, because people don't get that opportunity to step in, and when they do get the opportunity, sometimes they don't notice it. But if we put people on stage, and we go through those scenarios, they'll (think), 'Hey, this is when I need to step in,'" said Sgt. Jeremy Wood, 110th MP Company, 759th MP Bn.