SHAPE, Belgium -- As long as there have been people who care about making the world a better place, there have been individuals advocating for sexual assault prevention.

The U.S. Army Garrison Benelux community is dedicated to supporting survivors of sexual assault every day of the year. In April, the community further highlights the issue by observing Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month. This year, the community will continue the fight through efforts supporting the theme "Protecting Our People Protects Our Mission."

A United Nations statistical report showed that more than 250,000 cases of rape or attempted rape were recorded by police annually. The reported data covered 65 countries. Behind these alarming statistics are real people whose lives are profoundly affected, at times shattered, and who are invariably in need of help, commitment and protection.

During the month, the community is reminded that we all share the responsibility to reduce and prevent sexual violence. As a community of active-duty military, civilian professionals and families, people must develop meaningful strategies to eliminate these crimes, including increasing awareness of the problem within our ranks and community, creating systems that protect those most vulnerable and sharing successful prevention strategies. The community must support victims, prevent future violence, and prosecute offenders to the full extent of the law.

Stand with us in an effort to end sexual violence in our community, military, U.S., and host nation. We must focus on this fight every day, not only during Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month. Moreover, we must strive to make a real change in our culture, one that promotes dignity and respect.

WHAT CAN YOU DO?

It is essential to learn how to intervene in a way that is appropriate for the situation and your comfort level. Being an active bystander can make all the difference and save lives. Don't be a passive bystander!

1. Create a distraction

Do what you can to interrupt the situation. A distraction can give the person at risk a chance to get to a safe place. Cut off the conversation with a diversion. For example, if you are in a group setting, try interrupting by saying "Let's get pizza, I'm starving" or "This party is boring. Let's go somewhere else." Bring out fresh food or drinks and offer them to everyone at the party, including the people you are concerned about. Start an activity that draws other people in like a game or a debate.

2. Ask directly

Talk directly to the person who might be in trouble. Ask questions like "Who did you come here with?" or "Would you like me to stay with you?"

3. Refer to an authority

Sometimes, the safest way to intervene is to refer to a neutral party with the authority to change the situation such as military police. If you are outside of a military installation, talk to someone such as security guard, bartender or an employee about your concerns. It is in their best interest to ensure that their patrons are safe, and they will usually be willing to step in. Don't hesitate to call 112 if you are concerned for someone else's safety.

4. Enlist others

It can be intimidating to approach a situation alone. Enlist another person to support you. Ask someone to come with you to approach the person at risk. When it comes to expressing concern, sometimes there is power in numbers. Ask someone to intervene in your place. For example, you could ask someone who knows the person at risk to escort them to the bathroom. Enlist the friend of the person you're concerned about and ask them something like "Your friend looks like they've had a lot to drink. Can you check on them?"

To speak with someone who is trained to help, call the U.S. Army Europe 24/7 Sexual Assault Hotline at DSN 53-74277 (SHARP) or:

- Belgium: +32(0)476-76-2264

- The Netherlands: +31(0)651-9191-19

- Germany: +49(0)631-413-7280

GOT YOUR BACK TRAINING

On April 23 and 24, there will be GOT YOUR BACK training, which is an interactive conversation that integrates the research on sexual predation and bystander intervention into a discussion about sexual violence. The training addresses how sexualized language, and a tolerance for coercive cultural norms contribute to an environment that allows perpetrators to offend against both female and male victims, and avoid accountability.

Training will be held:

- April 23 from 10 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. at the SHAPE Bldg. 102 Auditorium

- April 23 from 2 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. at the Chièvres Bldg. 5 (Garrison Headquarters) Auditorium

- April 24 from 9:30 a.m. to 11 a.m. at the Brussels Conference Room

- April 24 from 2:30 p.m. to 4 p.m. at the JFC Brunssum East Chapel

This training counts as annual SHARP/SAPR training. For more questions, please call DSN 423-2473 or DSN 366-6863.