By Enaida Anderson
Sexual Assault Response Coordinator
66th Military Intelligence Brigade
WIESBADEN, GERMANY -- As long as there have been people who care about making the world a better place, there have been individuals advocating for sexual assault prevention. Our Wiesbaden community is dedicated to supporting survivors of sexual assault every day of the year, but each April we do something a little different to bring additional light to this important issue. We have dedicated this month to raise awareness about sexual violence and to recommit ourselves to fighting it.
A United Nations statistical report compiled from government sources showed that more than 250,000 cases of rape or attempted rape were recorded by police annually. The reported data covered 65 countries but sadly does not include an estimate of the many unreported cases. According to the Swedish National Council for Crime Prevention in 2013, it is likely that as many as 80% of all rapes are not reported, which was confirmed in a 2014 study emphasizing the extent of violence against women, funded by the Government of Sweden. This can be compared to a 2007 British Government report, estimating that between 75 and 95% of rapes are not reported in the United Kingdom. According to the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network, only 230 out of every 1,000 sexual assaults are reported to police in the United States. That means about 3 out of 4 cases go unreported. In the U.S. military only 43% of female victims and 10% of male victims report the crimes. Behind these painful statistics are real people whose lives are profoundly affected, at times shattered, and who are invariably in need of our help, commitment, and protection.
During this month, we are reminded that we all share the responsibility to prevent sexual violence. As a community of military, civilian professionals, and family members, we must develop meaningful strategies to eliminate these crimes. This includes increasing awareness of the problem within our ranks and community, creating systems that protect those most vulnerable, and sharing successful prevention strategies. We must support victims, prevent future violence, and prosecute offenders to the full extent of the law.
We must focus on this fight every day, not only during Sexual Assault Awareness Month. Moreover, we must strive to make a real change in our culture, one that promotes dignity and respect.
WHAT CAN YOU DO?
It is essential to learn how to intervene in a way that is appropriate for the situation and your comfort level. Being an active bystander can make all the difference and save lives. Don’t be a passive bystander! Prevention starts with you.
1. Create a distraction
Do what you can to interrupt the situation. A distraction can give the person at risk a chance to get to a safe place. Cut off the conversation with a diversion like, “Let’s get pizza, I’m starving,” or “This party is lame. Let’s try somewhere else.” Bring out fresh food or drinks and offer them to everyone at the party, including the people you are concerned about. Start an activity that is draws other people in, like a game, a debate, etc.
2. Ask directly
Talk directly to the person who might be in trouble. Ask questions like “Who did you come here with?” or “Would you like me to stay with you?”
3. Refer to an authority
Sometimes the safest way to intervene is to refer to a neutral party with the authority to change the situation, like Charge of Quarters staff or a security guard. Talk to a security guard, bartender, or another employee about your concerns. It’s in their best interest to ensure that their patrons are safe and they will usually be willing to step in. Don’t hesitate to call 112 if you are concerned for someone else’s safety.
4. Enlist others
It can be intimidating to approach a situation alone. Enlist another person to support you. Ask someone to come with you to approach the person at risk. When it comes to expressing concern, sometimes there is power in numbers. Ask someone to intervene in your place. For example, you could ask someone who knows the person at risk to escort them to the bathroom. Enlist the friend of the person you’re concerned about. “Your friend looks like they’ve had a lot to drink. Can you check on them?”
Here in Wiesbaden, our community will be conducting a variety of events to show our continual support for the SHARP program. On April 6, a “Chalk the Walk” event will take place at 1400, in front of the 2TSB Bldg on Clay Kaserne. Messages and artwork will be created to promote awareness and support all of the survivors of sexual assault.
Additionally, from April 22-30, the Garrison SHARP office at Building 1201, Room 125, will be collecting donations of old boots and shoes. This will support a “Teal Shoe Display” in front of the Headquarters building on Wheaton Ave. Each pair of boots will represent 100 cases of sexual assault reported across the Department of Defense during fiscal year 2020. If you’d like to get more involved, reach out SSG Cynthia Macias at 546-1021.
Lastly, the garrison will observe Denim Day on April 27. Military and civilian staff, along with their family members, are encouraged to wear denim in order to raise awareness of rape and sexual assault and show solidarity across our community.
According to the non-profit organization, Peace Over Violence, “Denim Day is a campaign on a Wednesday in April in honor of Sexual Assault Awareness Month. The campaign began after a ruling by the Italian Supreme Court where a rape conviction was overturned because the justices felt that since the victim was wearing tight jeans she must have helped the person who raped her remove her jeans, thereby implying consent. The following day, the women in the Italian Parliament came to work wearing jeans in solidarity with the victim. Peace Over Violence developed the Denim Day campaign in response to this case and the activism surrounding it.”
To speak with someone who is trained to help, call the 24/7 Sexual Assault Garrison help line at: DSN: 53-SHARP (74277), 0162-296-6741 or the DoD Safe Helpline at 001-877-995-5247.