FORT LEE, Va. – An April 4 proclamation signing here will kick off a full month of activities recognizing Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month.
Maj. Gen. Mark T. Simerly, CASCOM and Fort Lee commanding general; Command Sgt. Maj. Jorge C. Escobedo, CASCOM CSM; and representatives of command teams across the installation are expected to be on hand for the ceremonial occasion starting at noon under the dome of the 1st Logistical Command Memorial.
SAAPM 2022 – Simerly’s first observance since taking command last July – serves to reaffirm the installation’s commitment and resolve to prevent sexual misconduct among military members and civilians within the organization.
“Sexual harassment and sexual assault are unacceptable and contradict the values of the Army and our organization,” Simerly has stated. “Sexual harassment, sexual assault and retaliatory behavior for reporting offenses destroy teamwork, negatively affect combat readiness, and are incompatible with the Army values.”
Both sexual assault and sexual harassment are considered crimes under the Uniform Code of Military Justice. Sexual assault is defined as “intentional sexual contact, characterized by the use of force, physical threat or abuse of authority or when the victim does not or cannot consent,” according to the CASCOM Sexual Harassment/Assault Response and Prevention website.
Sexual harassment is the “unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature violating a person’s body or privacy or generating uncomfortable or threatening feelings.”
Local activities scheduled during SAAPM include a Soldier Support Institute scavenger hunt; a 23rd Quartermaster Brigade movie night; an Army Logistics University Denim Day; and the 59th Ordnance Brigade’s Take Back the Night event featuring scenario-based skits.
Dr. James Walker, CASCOM SHARP program manager, said this year’s spate of activities as well as awareness efforts over the year are the result of key personnel working in concert to move the program forward.
“It’s a team effort preparing for SAAPM,” he said. “The team – SHARP Program noncommissioned officer in charge Sgt. 1st Class Ilia BerriosCruz, sexual assault response coordinators, victim advocates and leadership teams across Fort Lee – is working cohesively to bring about awareness and prevention through education and training. Our work is not performed in a vacuum but through collaborative effort and collective resolve.”
The SHARP Challenge and Education Center facility is a highlight amongst those collaborative efforts, hosting more than 1,000 participants since its opening last summer, according to Walker.
“We’ve had brigade and battalion commanders, first sergeants and command sergeants major, who have undergone the training, and we’ve received nothing but good feedback,” he said.
The training featured at the facility is based on popular entertainment concepts and escape room live-action attractions. There are no lectures or speeches but rather a scenario-driven puzzle said to keep participants engaged.
Another component of the installation’s ongoing work regarding awareness and prevention is its Students Against Sexual Harassment, or SASH, program. Active in both the 59th Ordnance and 23rd Quartermaster brigades, it is designed to address SHARP issues at the ground level. SASH advocates – identified by teal ribbons worn on their uniforms – receive training to help them recognize sexual harassment and ways to intervene before it escalates.
“They bring awareness to the (SHARP) program while all along letting their battle buddies know they are (willing to help if) something happens,” said Camilla Lewis, Dragon Brigade victim advocate. “It’s not necessarily to take a (sexual misconduct) report, but for them to get their battle (buddy) to the appropriate SHARP representative.”
SHARP training is an annual requirement for military and civilian personnel at Fort Lee. Additionally, brigade-level units are slotted with victim advocates and sexual assault response coordinators to implement prevention measures, facilitate care and process SHARP administrative reports as required.
The installation efforts come amid marked improvements to the Army-wide SHARP program resulting from a high profile and recently well-publicized case, said Walker. Those improvements include bolstering training and education, and developing a synchronicity of response among legal, law enforcement and social service components.
For more information about the SHARP program here, call 804-894-0029 or visit home.army.mil/lee/index.php/my-fort-lee/all-services/sharp.