Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month (SAAPM) is an annual campaign recognized by both military and civilian communities in April. But for members of 15th Signal Brigade’s Sexual Harassment/Assault Response and Prevention (SHARP) program, the observance is constant.
The brigade kicked off the observance at its headquarters, days ahead of April 1, where Col. Edward Kendall and Command Sgt. Maj. Aubrey Russell Jr., 15th Sig. Bde. command team, signed a proclamation signifying their commitment to the SHARP program. The oversized poster, along with a table display of SHARP-related resources, will remain in the brigade’s main entryway through April and serve as a reminder for all who enter. Pledge posters will also be signed by the brigade’s subordinate units and displayed throughout the brigade’s area of operations.
Master Sgt. Amanda Clayton, 15th Sig. Bde. sexual assault response coordinator (SARC), said that although it is important to recognize April as SAAPM, she strongly encourages people to view sexual assault awareness and prevention as one of their daily tasks.
“We truly want everyone to recognize and understand that this is not just a topic for April,” Clayton said. “Just as we work year-round, the focus has to be year-round as well because that is how we are going to get closer to prevention.”
The Department of Army’s SAAPM theme this year, “Prevention Starts With You,” lines up perfectly with the message Clayton wants to convey through a series of events planned for the month. Activities include weekly virtual “lunch and learns,” a 5K color run, basketball tournament, and a SHARP NCO and Soldier of the Month board. Each event is designed to be educational and fun in hopes the Soldiers walk away better prepared to prevent sexual assault not only within their ranks, but out in the community as well.
“The military has free training … take advantage of it,” said Kizzy Lee, victim advocate, 15th Sig. Bde. “Use it, share and apply outside of the Army. Take what you learn to your house. You can talk to your 5-year-old, your spouse … take it with you.”
In addition to normalizing talk about sexual assault prevention, particularly among service members, Clayton believes that if everyone would simply treat each other as they would a beloved family member, it would go a long way in terms of prevention.
“Ask yourself how you would feel if you saw a family member being treated a certain kind of way,” Clayton said. “If we value each other in the same regard, then perhaps we could get to prevention because then that dignity and respect are there. That’s how you kind of have to look at it – like your own family – because we are an Army family. And when we look at each other in that regard, then it helps us to be able to treat each other as such.”
If you or someone you know is a victim of sexual harassment or assault, Lee said the best thing to do is contact your unit’s SARC or victim advocate and they will ensure proper reporting procedures are followed.
“We’ll go through all those things that we go over in training that no one can remember and we can get them the support that they need … we know it’s a lot,” Lee said.
Victims may also call the DoD Safe Helpline for support, where callers can choose to remain anonymous if they wish. For more information, call 877-995-5247, or visit www.safehelpline.org.