Members of the U.S. Army Garrison-Kwajalein Atoll Sexual Harassment/Assault Response & Prevention team hosted a recent discussion for Kwajalein High School students on how to identify, deter and prevent harassment and assault while protecting the safety and dignity of oneself and others.
SHARP Victim Advocate Sgt. 1st Class Effie Banks and SHARP Coordinator Chief Warrant Officer Two Nathan Elkins shared relatable examples of healthy and unhealthy relationships and encouraged the students to adopt wise standards for personal conduct. USAG-KA Commander Col. Tom Pugsley joined in the discussion to provide additional guidance and resources about island services.
One student offered an example of a stable, healthy relationship: “When you care for the other person and you both respect each other.”
In contrast, a situation in which touch was used to hurt someone would neither be safe nor right, said Banks.
“That [would be] an unhealthy, abusive relationship," Banks said. "There is no excuse for it. There is nothing that can be said to make up for it. [If that is happening,] you need to contact somebody to talk about that—a family member, a teacher.”
Exhibiting manipulative and abusive online behavior could have long-lasting consequences for cyberbullies and their victims, said Elkins. He discouraged students from posting anything that could be unkind to others or detrimental to their own future lives and careers.
“If you are undermining someone’s dignity and are disrespecting them, you are doing something wrong,” Elkins said. “If it’s not respectful of another person, please do not post it.”
Forcing others to experience physical touch without their consent and commenting or posting with attacks based on sex and gender also undermined basic human dignity and respect, Elkins said.
“It must be consensual,” Elkins said. “The person must let you know, verbally, or give freely. If they are trying to push away, and you are trying to hug, it’s not good.”
Pugsley reminded the students to think of their own support networks of trusted individuals.
“Don’t underestimate the power of a trusted teacher, friend or family member,” Pugsley said. “They are all active places to start having those conversations if you have an issue come up and you need help.”
He encouraged the students to use communication as an effective tool.
“It’s about communication always,” Pugsley said. “Don’t feel pressured to act a certain way. Be yourself. Your friends, partners and families will understand.”
In closing, KHS Principal Matt Gerber encouraged the students to do their part to maintain the school’s safe learning environment.
“Thank you for considering these things,” said Gerber. “Thank you for doing your part to make this school feel as safe and healthy as we would want it to feel at all times.”
The USAG-KA SHARP Program. Officers are ready to help any members of the atoll community in need. After initial support is provided, advocates will submit cases to the appropriate authority for action. Marshallese women aged 14 years and older who have become targets of assault and abuse can receive services provided by the nonprofit organization Women United Together Marshall Islands.
For more information, contact the SHARP Program Victim Advocate: Work phone: 805-355-0660 or 805-355-1419; USAG-KA SHARP Pager: 805-355-3241 #0100; and the DOD SAFE Helpline: 877-995-5247.