FORT DETRICK, Md. -- With April serving as Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month, or SAAPM, U.S. Army Medical Logistics Command is like many Army organizations planning events to observe the effort.
This year’s theme is “Prevention Starts With You.”
Following a kickoff event on April 4, hosted by AMLC Commander Col. Tony Nesbitt, command staff are urged to participate in Teal Tuesdays throughout the month, where employees wear teal to raise awareness and show support for survivors of sexual violence.
Additionally, personnel from AMLC and U.S. Army Medical Materiel Agency, a direct reporting unit to AMLC also headquartered at Fort Detrick, will participate in a morning physical training session on April 6 and a virtual trivia challenge is slated for April 12.
A “Chalk the Walk” event, where team members write messages of support for those who have experienced sexual assault and harassment, will take place April 20 in front of the AMLC headquarters building.
Before closing ceremonies and awards on April 29, the command also will take part in Denim Day, an international observance in honor of victims of sexual assault and harassment, on April 27.
Denim Day was created after a high-profile Italian rape trial where the victim was blamed for her rape because of the type of jeans she was wearing. To show solidarity and protest against victim blaming, individuals are encouraged to wear denim to combat the idea that rape and sexual violence is the fault of survivors.
“I know it seems like we have a lot of fun events planned … but it is a very hard topic, a very sensitive topic that many people don’t want to discuss because they may have experienced [sexual assault or harassment],” said Staff Sgt. Ella Greene, victim advocate for AMLC and USAMMA.
“This is something you do have to talk about, unfortunately,” she said. “By having activities, it does lighten the mood and helps get people talking.”
Candace Harriday, civilian victim representative for AMLC and USAMMA, said the month-long observance is a time to promote awareness and educate through the Army’s Sexual Harassment/Assault Response and Prevention program, commonly known as SHARP.
“The month of April is a perfect opportunity to send that message home,” Harriday said. “I think this requires synergized support at every echelon. Our program is tailored to prevention, advocacy and accountability. I think that’s really important, so people aren’t afraid to see something and say something.”
SHARP training throughout the Army has been overhauled in recent years, expanding the program beyond just a single annual training session. It’s now five modules that emphasize face-to-face interaction and discussion that employees are required to complete throughout the year.
During SAAPM, AMLC and USAMMA employees who participate in activities can earn credits toward their training requirement, Harriday said.
“It’s important work,” she said of the SHARP program. “I think about the Vanessa Guillen story almost every class or every time I speak about that. It really is an important subject that can easily change someone’s life. While it’s collateral duty for me, it’s full time in my head.”
Guillen, a 20-year-old Army specialist, was a victim of sexual violence, ultimately leading to her murder in 2020 by another enlisted Soldier while stationed at Fort Hood, Texas. In the wake of her death, sexual harassment was established as a crime under U.S. military law.
While April is a designated month for discussion and awareness, it takes a year-round effort to combat the effects and stigma associated with sexual assault and harassment, Greene said.
“It’s not just April,” she said. “It’s something that happens, unfortunately, every day. Just be aware of your surroundings, people’s actions … if something’s different, talk to them and ask if they’re really okay.
“If you see anyone acting different -- and it doesn’t need to be just with SHARP -- just be a beacon or a light to help them, you never know when you might need the help yourself.”
For victims of sexual assault or harassment, the Department of Defense has set up a 24/7 help line at 877-955-5247. There, callers can receive help anonymously and be connected to resources at their installation, both in the United States and abroad, Greene said.
“You can call and speak to someone, you can even live chat,” Harriday said about the help line. “They have safe help rooms where you can go in and chat with people who have had similar situations. They want to make it as easy as possible for you to get the assistance you need.”