By Bonnie A. Robinson (DPG)May 10, 2016
U.S. ARMY DUGWAY PROVING GROUND, Utah--Everyone understands that sexual assault and child abuse impacts victims and their families, but the effects of this violent crime on communities are not always obvious. Sexual violence creates a climate of fear, anger and even disbelief in workplaces, at schools and in communities where ever it occurs.
Raising awareness in Utah is Alana Kindness, executive director of the Utah Coalition Against Sexual Assault, who came to Dugway, April 26 to talk to Soldiers and community members about Utah's Sexual Assault Awareness and Child Abuse Prevention programs and her work with the Utah Legislature.
The event was sponsored by Dugway's Army Community Service at the Community Club. Rebecca Bacon, victim advocate of the Sexual Harassment and Assault Response & Prevention (SHARP) Program, introduced Kindness.
"She may be a small woman but she has a big voice in combating sexual assault," Bacon said. She also noted that Kindness assists state and city agencies to raise awareness, deal with problems and recommend solutions.
Kindness said the work of the Coalition is to assist lawmakers as they decide where to spend money when it comes to the prevention of sexual assault. She noted that Utah schools, medical groups, hospitals, police departments and first responders benefit from the Coalition's funding and advocacy efforts.
"Victims are likely to be those who are most vulnerable in our state, our young girls and boys, and the homeless," she said. Kindness added that perpetrators look to commit violence against these individuals so they can continue to have easily access and control.
"They are particularly vulnerable to multiple forms of victimization, including sexual and physical assault at the hands of strangers, acquaintances, sex traffickers and intimate partners on the street, in shelters or in precarious housing situations," she said.
The Coalition and Utah legislature often look to other programs, which are shaping a positive response. Kindness praised the proactive work of the U.S. Army, calling its efforts to educate bystanders to stop and report abuse, "remarkable."
"We are looking at the staying power of programs like the Army's that have a clear and consistent message," she said.
Among the Army's innovations in training is an integration of sexual harassment and sexual assault training know as SHARP.
SHARP was designed to address behaviors before they escalate into more serious offenses. Leaders across the Army are taught about sexual assault myths and facts, how to foster a preventive culture, and ensure a safe reporting environment with proper accountability, once a report is made. The Army's programs include not only sexual assault, but domestic violence, dating violence, and stalking.
"With these programs you are opening doors and motivating change," Kindness said. "The hope is that if we can reduce abuse early, maybe we can reduce abuse across a lifetime."
Col. Sean Kirschner, Dugway commander, thanked Kindness for her words and encouragement. "Having good citizen neighbors, like you, fighting for these critical issues does my heart good," he said.
Affirming the need to remain vigilant against sexual assault and child abuse, Kirschner added, "These are serious matters. We don't take them lightly. Protecting our brothers and sisters in uniform and our community is central to the Army's values and vital to good morale."