By Sgt. 1st Class Meillettis PattonApril 23, 2019
ROCK ISLAND ARSENAL, Ill. - The U.S. Army Sustainment Command SHARP Team kicked off sexual assault awareness and prevention month with a proclamation ceremony, in Heritage Hall April 2.
Soldiers, Army civilians and representatives of local agencies gathered for the Rock Island Arsenal kick off and a message from this year's guest speaker Steve Lepore, founder, and executive director of 1IN6.org.
Lt. Gen. Thomas James Jr., commanding general, First Army, gave opening remarks.
"There is no place in the Army for sexual assault and sexual harassment," he said. "Each of you has an important part to play in the prevention of these acts, so I expect everyone to do the right thing, no matter what."
Survivor stories were placed on posters throughout Heritage Hall to show the impact of sexual violence.
"There are several members of our workforce that have been impacted by sexual harassment, sexual assault, or even domestic violence," said Sgt. 1st Class April Taylor, ASC lead sexual assault response coordinator. "We have some of their experiences displayed. These experiences show the impact these vile acts have on individuals, those close to them, and the community as a whole."
Taylor welcomed Lepore, a survivor and advocate for male victims. Lepore presented insight into how men affected by sexual assault cope with their experiences.
"Many of us know the statistic of one in four women who will be sexually assaulted within their lifetime, but there is another statistic that is not as widely talked about," Taylor said. "One out of every six men in the U.S. are sexually assaulted."
Lepore shared his personal story and talked about the work he does with the organization 1in6.org, helping male survivors of sexual abuse and assault.
"For many of us we don't have a clear memory, we have a gut feeling," he said. "The way you respond to a man coming forward will save his life or cause him to recoil."
The mission of 1-in-6 is to help men who have had unwanted or abusive sexual experiences live healthier, happier lives according to Lepore.
During the ceremony, a video was shown of women reading stories from survivors of sexual assault.
"It was interesting because I thought it was a woman's story," said Lakeithia Thomas, senior religious affairs NCO for ASC, "when, in actuality, it was a man's story."
The video surprised many in the audience.
"Men go through the same thing as women. No one story is greater than the other," Thomas said. "We need to believe the men just as much as we believe the woman."
The SHARP Team conducts events to keep the SHARP message a top priority all year long. and has a variety of events slated in April.
In attendance were community and installation leaders who have partnered with military organizations to spread awareness to support SHARP, including the following:
Rock Island Mayor Mike Thoms, Davenport Mayor Frank Klipsch, Command Sgt. Maj. Joseph Ulloth, command sergeant major, ASC; Jay Carr, executive director, Army Contracting Command-Rock Island; JoEtta Fisher, deputy to the commander, Joint Munitions Command, Col. Stephen Marr, commander, U.S. Army Garrison-Rock Island; Command Sgt. Maj. Brian Heffernan, USAG-RI; Col Kenneth Letcher, Joint Manufacturing Technology Center; Col Steven Allen, chief of staff, ASC; Col Dave Brown, chief of staff, Joint Munitions Command; Lt. Col. Rachel Honderd, deputy district commander, Corps of Engineers; Kevin Lee, associate director, Combat Capabilities Development Command Armaments Center; Kelly Lack, director, Rock Island Civilian Personnel Advisory Center.