FORT SHAFTER, Hawaii – The U.S. Army Pacific Sexual Harassment/Assault Response and Prevention team hosted a virtual forum titled, “Teal Talk,” April 29 at Richardson Theater, Fort Shafter, Hawaii. The forum featured guest speaker Heath Phillips, a U.S. Navy Veteran and a survivor of sexual assaults in the military.
Phillips shared his military sexual trauma experience and the effects it had on his mental health after being discharged from the U.S. Navy.
“We do not realize that sexual assault does not only affect the victim,” Phillips said. “It affects everybody involved and not only does it affect everybody involved it affects their family and friends.”
Phillips thought leaving the military would help him recover from his assaults, he described. He failed to realize what the impact his assault did on his family. He explained that it hurt his mom, dad, siblings, children and future relationships. He added that although his assaults were approximately 32 years ago, he is still undergoing recovery from the assaults and his current relationship is affected.
Neila Lawrence, USARHAW and interim USARPAC SHARP program manager, reached out to Phillips to share his story in hopes that Soldiers, Officers, Commanders, and civilians understand the importance of supporting survivors, she said.
“You can change someone else’s life by simply checking up on them,” she added. “Making sure that they are ok or helping them to seek help or even standing up to somebody. We are there for each other and you don’t have to have or know all the right answers. Sometimes people simply need someone to hear them or believe in them.”
At the end of the forum, Phillips explains how to prevent sexual assault/harassment. “Prevention really starts with all of us,” Phillips said. “All of us stepping up to keep integrity. All of us stepping up using courage. All of us stepping up in intervening. That is how prevention really starts. As victim advocates, seniors, peers, or even junior enlisted how we move forward or how we do things is how we can make a change. It doesn’t matter what rank you are. It takes a second of our time to be human and ask how somebody is because you don’t know what happened to them.”
Command Sgt. Maj. Scott A. Brzak, USARPAC command sergeant major, also made a special appearance during the forum. He thanked the SHARP team and Phillips for being the guest speaker. “As leaders, we have to take ownership of this and inform our subordinates and peers of what’s going on and any events like this are taking place,” he said.” Events like this increase our awareness and give us things to think about and things to take back to our organizations and hopefully make our organizations better.”
Brzak further explains what leaders should do within their organizations. “At the end of the day, what we really want to do, especially as leaders, is to create a professional climate within our organization,” he said. “There should be a professional climate where Soldiers, civilians and leaders feel that they are safe and don’t have to worry about coming to work every day, be harassed and not being a part of the team. We as leaders need to be self-aware and we are self-managing ourselves and we are supposed to set the example every day on duty and off duty.”
“Communication is the key that we need to start doing. It is a needed thing to be able to stand up,” Phillips concluded.
For more information about the SHARP program please call the 24/7 SHARP hotline (833) 727-2808.