FORT LEE, Va. – A renewed focus on prevention as well as a wide array of events highlight CASCOM’s observance of Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month.
SAAPM is annual campaign observed on a nationwide basis. It was initiated to raise awareness and take action to eliminate sexual harassment and sexual assault through leader and public engagement.
“Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month is our opportunity to bring attention to the victims of sexual assault and harassment and focus on what still needs to be done to prevent sexual assault and harassment from happening,” said Jill Londagin, director, Army Sexual Harassment/Assault Response and Prevention program.
The Army-wide theme for this year’s observance is “Intervene, We are a Team: There is an US in Trust, can they trust you?” It focuses on creating the confidence necessary for Soldiers to step up and take actions to prevent sexual harassment and sexual assault.
At the local level, an additional theme is at work – “Prevention Starts Here.” It plays on the “Support Starts Here” motto of the sustainment community. The theme represents the command’s broader efforts to stop sexual misconduct before it starts, said Dr. James E. Walker, CASCOM SHARP program manager.
“It not only represents the measures we must all take to prevent harmful behaviors,” he said, “but the efforts of senior Soldiers to model, lead and initiate engagement that create positive environments.”
Operation Prevention is the driving force behind the theme. Launched in March 2022, it is CASCOM’s overarching sexual harassment and assault initiative. Operation Prevention – built on a training, education, awareness and accountability model – is strongly geared toward leaders and favors scenario-based training to detect negative behaviors.
“The strategy to combat sexual misconduct is to teach people to identify warning signs, then give them the skills and techniques to deal with that problem once they identify it,” Sgt. 1st Class Kimberly Morrelli, CASCOM/installation lead sexual assault and response coordinator. “That’s how we prevent things from happening and contribute to changing the culture.”
The SHARP Challenge and Education Center is CASCOM’s most potent tool for achieving its end goals. Located at Fort Lee, the CEC’s program of instruction is based on puzzle-solving video games and escape room live-action attractions popular with today’s youth. It was designed as an alternative to traditional instruction.
“It is so impactful,” said Morrelli of the CEC training. “We get good feedback from Soldiers all the time … ‘It’s so much better than PowerPoint’ or ‘Wow, this stuff really hit home.’ The training is based on scenarios and so you can tailor those scenarios to the type of Soldiers being trained. It makes the training realistic and gives Soldiers the opportunity to connect with the program.”
“The CEC’s format allows Soldiers to engage more and helps them better understand the everyone has a responsibility to treat others with dignity and respect,” he said.
Since its inception, more than 6,000 CASCOM students, civilians and leaders have undergone the scenario-based instruction at the CEC, said Walker.
Is Operation Prevention effective? “Yes, without question,” said Walker. “The feedback from Soldiers, cadre and leaders indicates positive results.”
He also said SHARP data analysis helps the command predict potential incident hot spots and implement mitigation strategies to prevent sexual harassment and sexual assault.
“I feel the path we’re taking shows promise,” said Walker. “It’s really the work of our victim advocates, sexual assault and response coordinators and leaders who have been tireless in their efforts to enforce standards through training, education, awareness and accountability. It’s a team effort.”
Morrelli echoed that assertion, emphasizing the work of victim advocates, who help to administer grassroots SHARP initiatives such as the Students Against Sexual Harassment program.
“From the brigade programs to the CEC, victim advocates are spending time after hours and on the weekends to work with Soldiers,” she said.
At the top of the leader chain, CASCOM commanding general Maj. Gen. Mark T. Simerly has been SHARP’s spearhead since the start of his tenure.
“The general has been engaged,” said Walker. “He has said over and over that he may give up leading some meetings, but he will not give up leadership of the Sexual Assault Review Board that we have monthly.”
The Sexual Assault Review Board reviews sexual harassment and sexual assault incidents to ensure focused victim care. Simerly has been present for every SARB occasion, noted Walker.
Lastly, Walker said dedicated and caring Soldiers are the underpinnings of the SHARP program, and thereby, critical to the program’s success.
“I never want to underestimate the sacrifice of Soldiers and the other military members and civilians in our communities,” he said. “We don’t take their efforts in the SHARP program lightly.”
In observance of Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month and to promote further engagement amongst CASCOM community members, various events are planned at Fort Lee and at Fort Jackson, S.C., where CASCOM’s Soldier Support Institute is located.
First and foremost is the CASCOM proclamation-signing at the Lee Club at noon, April 10, followed by a golf scramble.
Other events include an SSI Kickoff Ceremony set for April 3; the 58th Transportation Training Battalion Color Run set for April 6; and an April 8 Movie Night hosted by the 23rd Quartermaster Brigade.
The 59th Ordnance Brigade is planning to hold a Take Back the Night event on April 21; the Army Logistics University CEC Challenge is scheduled for April 19; and a Commitment Pledge Signing and 5K Run/Walk is slated for April 28.
For more information about SAAPM events or CASCOM’s SHARP program call 8094-734-6594 or visit the SHARP website at https://home.army.mil/lee/index.php/my-fort-lee/all-services/sharp