By Maj. LeVar ArmstrongApril 29, 2016
FORT MEADE, Md. -- Numerous reports of sexual harassment and assault occur yearly in the military, and an even larger number of offenses remain unreported. In response, the Army launched the I.A.M. STRONG campaign to cultivate strength and protection against such incidents before they occur.
According to the Sexual Harassment/Assault Report and Prevention website, the campaign aims to create a culture in which Soldiers live the Warrior Ethos, never leave a fallen comrade, and they convey a message that says "I've got your back" by every act, word and deed to fellow Soldiers.
In order to educate and spread awareness, the 200th Military Police Command, the top law enforcement command in the Army Reserve, is making sure their entire team stands ready to counter this problem using visual reminders throughout the workplace.
Karen Goodwin, the commands sexual assault response coordinator, has close to 12 years of experience combating sexual assault and harassment. She not only thinks it's important to bring awareness to the topic in the month of April, but truly believes that in order to bring change it should become part of everyday life.
"It's definitely a reality in this country, but that doesn't mean it has to be acceptable," she said.
Goodwin placed vignettes throughout the command headquarters, each representing a potential assault or harassment scenario. The vignettes, which are all based on real events, force the viewer to think about how they would intervene, act and motivate others to take action while countering assault and harassment.
Goodwin also placed male and female manikins around the command wearing revealing clothing. The manikins demonstrate incidents of victims getting blamed for causing the assaults.
"The goal of the manikins and short stories is to force people to think about the overall offensive action when it pertains to sexual assaults and harassments, the accuser often results to victim blaming far too many times," Goodwin said.
In his Presidential Proclamation for National Sexual Assault and Prevention month, President Barack Obama directed military leadership to prioritize this issue and equip the men and women in uniform with the knowledge and tools necessary to combat sexual violence.
The service members and civilians at the command understood the importance and relevance of the directive and they continue to support and applaud the efforts of Goodwin.
"Readiness is our number one priority," said Maj. Gen. Phillip Churn, commanding general for the 200th MP Cmd. "Sexual violence in any manner degrades organizational readiness, lowers morale and ultimately results to a loss of confidence in leadership if not taken seriously."
Since 2004, when Donald H. Rumsfeld, the former Secretary of Defense, became intimately involved in the DoD process for treatment and care of victims of sexual assault in the military, there have been drastic changes in the level of emphasis put on sexual violence awareness.
"We're all aware that it's going on, and in some cases extensively," said Goodwin. "The days of silent cries have long been over, and it's up to all of us to do our parts to make a difference."