CHIÈVRES, Belgium -- It is not every day when one hears an instructor telling jokes during a training session. However, through jokes and humor, one educator wanted to deconstruct stereotypes and beliefs about sexual encounters in order to spread the message of ending sexual assault.

In recognition of National Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month in April, U.S. Army Garrison Benelux's Sexual Harassment/Assault Response and Prevention Program, commonly referred to as SHARP, staff invited Catharsis' Productions to host "Got Your Back" training April 23 and 24 at locations across USAG Benelux.

According to Catharsis Productions, which has the tagline "fight fire with funny," "Got Your Back" is a research-based program designed to dismantle false beliefs and educate people on the difference between healthy intimacy and sexual violence. The training is an audience-participation-driven program that empowers people to be a part of the conversation.

"We use humor and interaction, because we want to be able to laugh at commonly-held beliefs in our culture that say that we are not allowed to talk about these things [such as gender stereotypes and healthy intimacy]," said Anne Dufault, an educator at Catharis Productions.

"Once we break down the idea that this is something that has to be talked about in order to end sexual assault, we are able to make so many more strides."

During the training, Dufault's engaging personality encouraged the audience to open up as she asked them to think about healthy and unhealthy behaviors in relationships. The audience joined the conversation as they strategized ways to prevent sexual assault and violence in the community.

For Dufault, speaking to the military community was an exciting experience as she noted that the rich conversations happening in her trainings can help influence change across the world.

"Throughout history, we have seen the armed forces be a leader in social change such as racial and gender integration in the workforce," she said. "It is so exciting to talk to people in the military, because it's not just about changing the culture in the military. It's about the military being able to change our overall culture."

Stephanie Jones, the sexual assault response coordinator at USAG Benelux Army Community Service, hoped that the audience will take what they learned in the training and encourage positive behaviors and actions in their professional and personal lives.

"I hoped people realized that they intervene and help someone," she said. "There are community resources such as SHARP which help support survivors."

SHARP or Sexual Assault Prevention Response training is an annual requirement for U.S. service members and civilian employees. In addition to training opportunities like "Got Your Back," the U.S. Army provides SHARP and SAPR training throughout the year so people stay informed on the tools and resources available on reporting sexual assault and being an active bystander in ending sexual assault. Sexual assault response coordinators are located in USAG Benelux communities.

For more information about SHARP, call DSN 314-366-6863 or +32(0)65-32-6863.

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

If you are in an emergency, please call the military police at your location or dial 112 for emergency services.