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(Photo Credit: U.S. Army) VIEW ORIGINAL

Fort Leonard Wood's Sexual Harassment and Assault Prevention stand down targeted the chain of command, sexual assault response coordinators and victim advocates.

More specifically, those in attendance at the event held Friday in Lincoln Hall Auditorium were informed by subject-matter-experts of the legal process involving sexual assaults and the assistance available for domestic abuse and sexual violence victims.

"Everybody has to be treated with dignity and respect, both the victim and the accused," said Maj. Gen. Leslie Smith, Maneuver Support Center of Excellence and Fort Leonard Wood's commanding general, who hosted the event.

"It's the commander's responsibility to be fair and impartial. It's hard to do but you have to take your personal feelings and your personal opinion off the table," Smith said.

According to Capt. Tyler Heimann, Staff Judge Advocate special victim prosecutor, there are three areas where we might be able to prevent these assaults -- those who assault, those who are assaulted and those who let it happen.

"That last one is the one that I think we have the possibility to make the most impact on -- those third-party bystanders who can step in and step up," Heimann said.

Maj. Tami Mitchell, Special Victim's Council program manager, introduced the congressionally mandated program that was designed to help educate victims on their rights and their choices to help them make informed decisions about their cases.

"Congress was concerned not just about our offenders being held accountable but also, are the victims being treated with dignity and respect, are their voices being heard," Mitchell said. "The Special Victim's Council program is a fairly new program. It is an attorney who represents the victim. We are there to help the victim. We're there to help them understand the military justice process."

The Army is a culture that needs to change their mindset, according to Donna Ferguson, Behavioral Analysis and Response Branch chief.

"It's called institutional buy in. If you simply do something because you are mandated to do it, you'll simply walk through the process and never be changed," Ferguson said. "If the Soldiers don't buy into it, it's not going to happen, if the leaders don't buy into it, it's not going to happen. We got to want to change."