By Staff Sgt. Tomora ClarkMay 4, 2016
FORT HOOD, Texas - The lights dimmed. The crowd became silent. One single spotlight shone brightly, illuminating the actors on the stage.
As the audience watched the actors dance to music, a male's voice overpowered the music setting the scene for the skit. The scene: a 19-year-old female Soldier, who recently arrived to her new unit, was invited to a club by fellow Soldiers within the unit.
A scene not too out of the ordinary. Until, she was encouraged to drink alcoholic beverages.
The stage fades to black, and the theater's lights are turned on.
Soldiers within 1st Cavalry Division participated in an interactive Sexual Harassment/Assault Response and Prevention training April 28 at Howze Theater here. The interactive training consisted of four different scenes with breaks in-between for interaction between the audience and Sgt. 1st Class Raymundo Rodriguez, the sexual assault response coordinator for 3d Cavalry Regiment.
"The purpose of the interaction was to do a check on learning and see what the audience knew...If the audience didn't know the answer to a question, I would inform them," said Rodriguez.
In 2001, the U.S. first observed April as the National Sexual Assault Awareness Month, but it wasn't until 2009 when President Barrack Obama proclaimed April as SAAM that the Army started to observe this month.
The Department of the Army decided to give the program back to the Soldiers in October 2012, said Robena Tomlinson, the regiment's victim advocate.
"We started seeing an increase in reporting, and I quickly realized there was more going on than people realized," said Tomlinson. "It was about time we brought this program to the forefront."
The regiments' SHARP coordinators wanted to break the monotony of the traditional usage of slides and go for a more interactive approach with a Sexual Assault Sexual Harassment Awareness skit.
"We tried to bring a different aspect of training and get away from training with use of PowerPoint or reading the slides verbatim," said Rodriguez. "We didn't want to have another training where it was death by PowerPoint."
Tomlinson added, "Most [SHARP] training is in a classroom environment on slides and can be a little boring. [The Soldiers] are not retaining the information that way, so seeing is believing. With a play, the audience is captivated by what's happening on stage. Hopefully, this interactive training and live performance helps them retain the information."
The goal behind the training was to raise Soldiers' awareness and educate them on the program, said Tomlinson.
"This play is to help let victims or survivors know that there is a way out, and they do not have to shoulder this alone," Tomlinson said on the inception of SASHA part 2. "We decided it was time to bring forth the real truth."
Tomlinson wrote and produced the play as a derivative from the original SASHA play two years ago by Fort Hood's 11th Signal Brigade. The skit ran at three different times throughout the day to optimize Soldier awareness, said Tomlinson.
All of the actors within the SASHA skit were Soldiers from 1st Cav. Div.
"I'm blessed to have such an awesome SARC, Sergeant First Class Raymundo Rodriguez, who helped make this training a success," Tomlinson said. "More importantly, I appreciate the Soldiers. I couldn't have done this without there unyielding support and talent."
"The Soldiers have been rehearsing and training for this skit since mid-January," said Rodriguez. "I'm glad they gave it their all and helped make the show a success."
As the play came to an end, Rodriguez gave some closing remarks.
"We are obligated to intervene, act and motivate others to do their part in the prevention of sexual harassment and sexual assault," said Rodriguez.