By Sgt. 1st Class Victor Gardner, 1st Infantry Division RSSB Public AffairsApril 11, 2019
BAGRAM AIRFIELD, Afghanistan -- SAAPM, Sexual Assault and Awareness Prevention Month, has been nationally observed by America during the month of April since 2001. This year service members of 1st Infantry Division Sustainment Brigade, re-flagged as 1st Infantry Division Resolute Support Sustainment Brigade, during its deployment, took part in a SAAPM open mic event during the opening week's ceremonies here on April 4.
Several individuals shared poetry from their personal experiences, as well as a known artist on the topic of sexual assault. One poetry story stood out for its length, as well as its impact. This poetry story was written and shared by Sgt. 1st Class Cedric Simpson, human resource non-commissioned officer in charge of 1st Infantry Division RSSB, who took listeners on a journey from his inception into the Army through a night that he said forever changed his life and career.
"It's a situation that I created," Simpson said. "I have the mindset that we all should be able to get along. It was a great opportunity to connect my past and present. This situation happened in 2002. Being that it's happened so long ago, I have the tendency to suppress it until a familiar situation presents itself."
Simpson's story revolved around leaving his home state of Alabama and convincing a friend of his to make the same choice in joining the Army. The piece ends with a serious question that he asks himself when a sexual assault happens and he can't help prevent it:
"For someone to force themselves on a person
is something I can't relate
In the end, it's my fault
Not sure if it's him or me that I hate"
The friend Simpson convinced to join the Army was inebriated at a night club. Simpson and some of his co-workers did what their training taught them, which was to help a battle buddy out of a bad situation. So they took him home. Unfortunately the night didn't end that simply.
The group decided to have their own party once they made it home where the actions of others changed the lives of many the next day.
"I woke up to a noise
that sounded like someone sobbing
I thought maybe I was delusional
because my head was freakin throbbing
As I entered the room of darkness
something told me that I was too late
It was one my closet female friends
who my boy decided to rape"
In retrospect, Simpson said the way he thinks this situation could have been avoided is if he had sent his friend home in a cab and went on with the rest of the night with his other friends. His views on helping a victim of sexual assault depends on how the victim's situation was.
"That's a tough question to ask," Simpson said. "You'll have to go back to the beginning of their experience. It's something that most individuals are not a fan of reliving. Others use it as a growing tool. Normally, I'll adjust the way that I approach their situation based off of totality of their experience from the assault itself to the way that they SARC (Sexual Assault Response Coordinator) and CoC (Chain of Command) handled the situation."
As a father of young daughter Simpson has already had several conversations with her about the possibilities of sexual assault and rape.
"This is a discussion that I've had with my daughter on multiple occasions," Simpson said. "In the end I tell her that I can tell you that something is hot and not to touch it, but if you want to touch it while I am not there, you are going to. Hopefully you'll never be put in a situation where someone is able to take advantage of you, but if it does happen, there'd be two people going to jail instead of one."
Asked how he would approach the situation if he had a son, Simpson said, "I'd explain to my son that sexual assault doesn't discriminate with gender. There are men out there getting assaulted as well so you have to be just as careful."
In Simpson's viewpoint there are three reasons why the Army requires SHARP (Sexual Harassment Assault and Response Program) training.
"The government made it mandatory," Simpson said. "Someone in the organization was sexually assaulted and it was too late to act. Someone informed a higher echelon that the subordinate organization doesn't care about SHARP."
Simpsons lasting statement to individuals that don't take sexual assault or rape seriously is, "How would you feel if your daughter, son, wife, or husband was in that situation?"