USAG HUMPHREYS, South Korea — The 524th Military Intelligence Battalion held a battalion-wide stand down to focus for a day on national Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month on Apr. 2.
The day began with a Family fun run during which Soldiers and participating Family members could participate in either a 3-kilometer or 5-kilometer release run, followed by the day’s Army’s Sexual Harassment/Assault Response and Prevention program focused training.
The first training event was very unorthodox in the scheme of Army training and took the form of an “escape room.” Soldiers from the battalion were broken into teams that were put into rooms where they had to find clues that would allow them to open a lock, granting their “escape” from the room. Inside the locked container, the groups found a letter from a person with a scenario describing a possible sexual harassment event in the work place. The participants had to determine if there was in fact a sexual harassment event and how to handle the described situation in a discussion with the battalion’s sexual assault response coordinator, Sgt. 1st Class Harold Cho.
After all the teams completed their escape room challenge, the battalion assembled virtually on the MS Teams app to hear from guest speakers from the behavioral health clinic at Brian D. Allgood Army Community Hospital (BAACH), Criminal Investigation Command (CID) special agents from the Camp Humphreys Field Office, and special victims’ counsel from Eighth Army’s client legal services.
The first guest speaker, Dr. Xhosa Burford, LCSW, a therapist at the behavioral health clinic, discussed trauma, helping others to heal and post-traumatic growth. She explained that both men and women are victims of sexual assault and that two factors that seem to be the main causes of sexual assaults in Korea are alcohol and loneliness.
Burford went on to explain that they can help their fellow Soldiers heal from trauma by providing emotional support and by educating themselves on trauma responses so they can recognize when someone may have experienced trauma. She indicated that it was important for anyone that is trying to help someone else to know their limits and biases when dealing with others. She also said to set boundaries for yourself because caring for others can become overwhelming. In some situations, the best thing to do is to get the person who needs help to a qualified mental health professional.
“I tell people that therapy isn’t about me telling you anything, it’s me reminding you about how much of a survivor you are,” said Burford. She also indicated that in certain circumstances it may save someone’s life.
However, she also told the group that often help doesn’t have to be therapy; in other instances just being able to open up and release the stress that people hold in can be key. This can come from going for a run or doing something physical to get that energy out.
Burford concluded by discussing the importance of posttraumatic growth. Growth after a traumatic event shows that the person is getting back on track with their life in a positive way. Some of the signs of growth are a renewed appreciation for life, improved relationships, and spiritual growth.
Warrant Officer Than Chow, CID team chief, Humphreys Field office and Chief Warrant Officer 4 Michael Hessler, CID operations officer for Korea, spoke to the battalion about how the command could help with investigations of sexual assault cases.
Chow emphasized the importance of getting the four Ws: who, what, when, and where, as soon as possible after an event to capture details that may fade with time. She also said to ask the victim if they want medical care, and if possible to get a sexual assault screening at the hospital and to collect the clothes the victim was wearing during the attack before they are washed.
The final quest speaker, Capt. Philip Goldstein, legal assistance chief for Eighth Army, discussed the special victims’ counsel (SVC) program. He explained that the SVC serves as an advocate for the best interests of a victim of sexual assault.
Goldstein provided and overview of the program, why SVC was created, and what the program could and couldn’t do for its clients. Some of the important services that SVC provides are: accompanying the victim to CID for the interview, providing information on the military justice system, representing the victim’s interests during litigation, and consulting with government counsel regarding the victim’s views on decisions facing the accused.
To round out the SAAPM stand down, Lt. Col. Nathan Reed, commander, 524th MI Battalion, conducted an after action review with his personnel. There was unanimous support for the escape room training as it was much more interactive than PowerPoint presentations. There was also common support for enlisting outside guest speakers to discuss the pertinent topics.