Building a gingerbread house can be a way to bring families together around the table at the holidays.
But at the U.S. Army Aviation Center of Excellence and Fort Rucker, an ongoing command gingerbread house competition is part of something bigger.
The competition among commands that runs through early December supports the Sexual Harassment and Assault Response and Prevention program goal to eliminate sexual harassment and assault by creating a climate where every person is treated with dignity and respect.
The “Protect This House” initiative, which uses a gingerbread house project as a focal point, aims to show leadership commitment to eradicating incidents of sexual harassment and assault, according to Shana Morris, program manager for USAACE’s Sexual Harassment and Assault Response and Prevention program.
“Eliminating behaviors of sexual assault and harassment across the footprint is a team effort. Everyone working together under that command’s ‘house’ is the team that is the source of effort to eliminating these behaviors,” Morris said.
Each command assigned to USAACE and Fort Rucker will start with a basic gingerbread house kit and foam board provided by the SHARP team, to build and decorate as a command team.
Commands may use non-edible decorations such as paint, ribbon, and figurines to decorate their houses, and creativity is encouraged.
Once the house is complete, the goal then is to gain buy-in by collecting signatures of individuals throughout the command who vow to “Protect This House”. They may sign their names anywhere around the gingerbread house or the accompanying board to commit to protecting each other. Houses should be completed by Dec. 2.
The houses will be moved to different common area locations throughout the command to so that the maximum number of personnel have the opportunity to participate by signing their names.
Gingerbread houses will be on display the week of Dec. 14-18 at building 5700, where they will be judged to determine the best overall design.
Morris said the house represents the command as a whole, and the signatures show the commitment throughout the command to protect people “within the house” from sexual assault and harassment.
“We can all work together continuing to build trust within our SHARP program and enhancing our relationships with leadership, Soldiers, and DA Civilians,” she said.
As part of overall prevention and response efforts, it’s important to try to reach people in relatable ways about tough subjects like sexual harassment and assault.
“The SHARP program is filled with prevention and training along with direct leadership engagement to help build the supportive climate,” Morris said.
If a service member does become victim to sexual harassment and/or sexual assault, the SHARP program provides them with resources and referrals, advocates for them, and should they choose, supports them during the reporting process, she explained.
Sexual Assault Response Coordinators and Victim Advocates are also able to review a victim’s options while maintaining their confidentiality.
Education about prevention is paramount, as is information about how to seek help and services, according to Morris.
“I hope personnel are able to see that as a team everyone comes together and protects one another from sexual assault and harassment. When intervening, whether as an individual or in a group, you could be saving someone’s life,” Morris said.
Morris emphasized that everyone has a part in intervening, protecting one another and looking out for warning signs.
Resources available for sexual assault support for the DoD and Fort Rucker community include:
· Fort Rucker SHARP Hotline: 334-470-6629
· DoD Safe Helpline: 1-877-995-5247