ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND, MARYLAND -- (March 9, 2016) Sexual Assault Program Managers (SAPM) and Victim Advocates (VA) from throughout the Aberdeen Proving Ground Community got together in the APG Main Chapel for a breakfast forum here today to discuss renewing their compassion to sustain service.
The event was attended not only by SAPMs and VAs, but by Commanders and Command Sergeants Major representing the broad spectrum of the APG community.
These key service providers to the Soldiers, Civilians and Family members of the APG community were charged by U.S. Army Communications-Electronics Command (CECOM) and Installation Senior Commander Maj. Gen. Bruce T. Crawford to not simply buy into combatting this problem.
"Ladies and gentlemen what we're after is ownership," Crawford said. "The difference between buy-in and ownership, you move from 'I like what you are doing' to 'I'm willing to help you.' That's what we're after with this particular challenge."
He went on to explain that sexual assault and harassment would never be "no issue" and that the people present were direct supporters of the Army's single top priority, readiness of the force.
"This is going to require continuous leadership…continuous accountability, where you're willing to look folks in the eye and say 'no more.' That it's not going to happen in our Army, not…on our watch."
Guest Speaker Heather Evans from the Elkton Veterans Center urged the assembled care givers to remember how important self-care is to giving care, and that an unhealthy provider could fall short of providing the best care if they are not feeling their best. She likened self-care to care for your car. You wouldn't let your car run forever without taking care of it, an oil change for instance, it would sieze up and stop working. Likewise, care providers that don't take the time to take care of themselves, can have trouble providing for others.
She explained that one way to ease the everyday stress was to set boundaries.
"If you don't have good personal boundaries, and you're taking your work home with you, you're never getting a break." She said. "For some people it's a physical act -- when I worked crisis, I would always leave my badge in the car, it would never come in the house with me. That physical/mental screen between myself and work was needed.
"For other people a boundary can be I never talk about work at home," Evans continued. "Having those boundaries, whatever personally you need to have in place, whatever helps you separate work from home, is very necessary."
Capt. Allison Marvasti, Victim Counsel from the legal office explained how their function fits into the lattice of services for victims -- specifically for military but with possibly soon to be expanded services for the large Civilian population here.
"This is all pretty much brand new," she said. "The special victims counsel program came out earlier this year and we're learning as we go, to expand our programs to that sector of our community that includes DA Civilians and contractors and Family members, trying to see how we can best serve them. Absolutely, 100 percent we serve active duty Service members, it doesn't matter what the circumstances of their sexual assault.
Crawford asked each of the panelists to find one thing about the resource center or their arena that might be changed to add to their service capability.
"The reason we created a SHARP Resource Center is so that we could make it a one-stop shop," Crawford explained. "We have one of only 12 in the United States Army right here at APG. What the Army was trying to figure out a year and a half or two years ago when they made that decision, was that we have to address the civilian population. We have to put a resource center at a post, camp or station that has mostly civilians."
Crawford praised the gathered care givers and reminded them how vital their efforts were.
"The work that you are doing is much bigger than what you see here -- because it has to do with the reputation of the United States Army, it has to do with upholding that great tradition, that makes us, absolutely, year in and year out, the most respected and the most trusted profession on God's green Earth."