By Nathan Pfau, Army Flier Staff WriterMarch 22, 2018
FORT RUCKER, Ala. -- Even though people across the world are becoming more outspoken about combating sexual assault, for many others, the fear of speaking out remains difficult to overcome.
Fort Rucker is dedicated to bringing awareness to sexual harassment and sexual assault, and during Sexual Assault Awareness Month in April it will host events to educate people on what to look out for and where to turn if they are a victim, according to Sgt. 1st Class David Hedgepeth, 110th Aviation Brigade Sexual Assault Response Coordinator.
Although Hedgepeth said awareness about the issue can't be limited to just one month, it's a good place to start.
"This is just to bring awareness that there is a problem," said the SARC. "You look on the news and there are always issues of sexual harassment and sexual assault, and I believe that there is a change with this new generation, and (sexual harassment and sexual assault) won't be tolerated anymore."
The educational opportunities will begin March 23 during Children's Fest, where unit SARCs and victim advocates will team up with Army Community Service to educate people on sexual assault and harassment, said Holli Miller, 110th Avn. Bde. victim advocate.
"We will talk to the kids about bullying and the things that can lead up to sexual harassment," she said. "It's all about education."
March 28, Maj. Gen. William K. Gayler, U.S. Army Aviation Center of Excellence and Fort Rucker commanding general, will sign the official proclamation to pledge his and Fort Rucker's dedication to the cause, said Hedgpeth.
When it comes to sexual harassment and assault, self defense is an important part of protecting oneself from predators, said the SARC, and people will have the opportunity to learn self defense techniques during a class April 12 from 5-7 p.m. at The Commons.
"The class will be taught by Joshua Cheek, mixed-martial arts instructor, who volunteered to teach the class and go over basic self-defense techniques," said Hedgepeth, adding that taking part in something interactive is a great way for people to come together to learn about how to combat sexual assault.
The Warrant Officer Career College will host a sexual assault awareness run April 20 at 6 a.m. following "Reveille," where people are invited to wear teal in recognition of Sexual Assault Awareness Month. Soldiers are able to participate in civilian dress, as well, as long as they wear teal, added Hedgepeth.
Following the run, the 110th Avn. Bde. will host a motorcycle ride for awareness at 9 a.m. beginning at the Lemon Lot. The ride is open to the public and will take riders on a course through Daleville, Enterprise and Ozark.
April 25, beginning around 11:30 a.m., there will be the Denim Day Walk, where different units will begin at different staging areas to march, clad in denim, and converge at Sgt. Ted E. Bear.
The denim represents an Italian student who was raped by her instructor in Italy, said Hedgepeth, and although the instructor was convicted, eventually the Italian Supreme Court justices overturned the conviction, citing that "the victim's jeans were too tight for her to have been raped."
In honor of the victim and in defiance of the ruling, people across the world organized to create Denim Day to bring awareness to sexual assault, said the SARC.
Because of incidents like that and so many others, it's important to bring awareness to the issues, said Hedgepeth, which is the reason for the events -- to give people the courage to speak out.
"If people feel that they are a target of sexual harassment or assault, the first thing they need to do is to let the person know that the behavior they are encountering is unwanted," said the SARC. "If it continues, they need to seek help, and there are multiple outlets people can turn to, including Family Advocacy Programs, unit SARCs and the (Sexual Harassment/Assault Response and Prevention) hotline. People can call and ask questions if they feel that they're being harassed at work or are the victim of a sexual assault, and we can point them in the right direction (to get help)."
Oftentimes, victims have trouble speaking up because of fear of retaliation or repercussions, but Hedgepeth says that those who have encountered such behavior should be encouraged to come forward to seek help in order to stop that type of behavior from continuing.
"When a person comes forward, I thank them," he said. "It's very difficult to come forward in a situation like this, but in order for things to change, we have to know that something is going on. When someone comes in, we try to reassure them. Regardless what the situation is, we are always there for the victim."
For more information, call 255-0566. For the 24-hour SHARP hotline, call 334-470-6629.