Confusion, indecision and irrationality often define a sexual assault victim's reaction to trauma, traits that are crucial for command teams across the Army to recognize and understand to best support Soldiers.
Leaders from across Fort Bliss attended the 1st Armored Division and Fort Bliss Sexual Harassment Assault Response Program (SHARP) Command Forum on August 12, receiving the opportunity to train and strengthen their knowledge while receiving and participating in a presentation from Dr. John Foubert, the Highly Qualified Expert in Sexual Assault Prevention for the Army and native of Jackson, Tennessee.
"This forum is for command leaders so they can learn how to help prevent sexual assault and learn about bystander intervention as well as the trauma that a victim has," said Sgt. 1st Class Erica Stewart, a lead sexual assault response coordinator for 1AD and native of Birmingham, Alabama. "It's important for leaders so that they will see the signs and symptoms from sexual assault and direct their Soldiers to seek help."
Foubert highlighted sexual assault prevention, recognizing the effects of post-traumatic stress disorder resulting from traumatic incidents, bystander intervention, and the importance of building empathy during the forum.
"My presentation about how the brain and body react to sexual violence so that everyone here can understand better the trauma survivors' reactions," said Foubert. "I think anytime that someone has a traumatic experience, it can be difficult to understand and so as we adjudicate cases of sexual violence I think it's important that everyone understand what a typical trauma reaction is like."
A sexual assault survivor's trauma reaction can often seem confusing and illogical, often misunderstood aspects of trauma that Foubert addressed throughout the forum.
"Sometimes the reactions that a trauma survivor has is irrational during the incident itself, and they may do something that sounds unreasonable to the outside observer," said Foubert. "But if you understand trauma, you understand that irrationality is part of a trauma response."
Foubert used real-life scenarios to demonstrate the realities of a sexual assault victim's reaction as well as interactive dialogue to engage the command teams in order to allow for a comprehensive learning and training experience.
"I take the audience through a scenario where somebody experiences a trauma incident to try to get them to better understand what that would feel like," said Foubert. "Sometimes, a trauma survivor doesn't report something immediately and people think 'Oh well, it didn't happen if they didn't report it immediately,' but I'm here to try to dispel that myth."
Understanding the realities that a sexual assault victim goes through is important to ensure that they are treated with empathy and that they are given the greatest care and respect possible.
"At any given point in time, a victim could possibly choose to be suicidal or homicidal, so it could help prevent that side of it, and so the victims can see that the command does support them and that they can still function," said Stewart. "Victims won't have to worry about being alone, other people have gone through it and if someone else has gone through it and survived, they can too."