By Staff Sgt. Rob Strain, 15th Sustainment Brigade Public AffairsNovember 29, 2009
CONTINGENCY OPERATING LOCATION Q-WEST, Iraq - The 395th Combat Sustainment Support Battalion hosted a "Shine the Light" two-mile walk here Nov. 20.
Nearly 300 service members and civilians turned out for the night time walk intended to raise awareness of sexual assault prevention and let potential perpetrators know that people are watching, said Staff Sgt. Elaine Gray, a unit victim advocate with the 395th CSSB.
"It's like a neighborhood watch," Gray, a Wolcott, Conn., native, said.
The walk took a two-mile route through COL Q-West and focused on using proper night safety equipment, such as flashlights and reflective belts, as well as the buddy system for both Soldiers and civilians, Gray said.
Gray explained that it was important for Soldiers to take a buddy with them whenever they went anywhere, especially after dark, and to let someone else know where they are going, in order to prevent becoming a victim of sexual assault.
"We are a family," Gray said. "It affects all of us."
The event also emphasized the importance of reporting cases of sexual assault, said Capt. Jack Strong, a mental health provider with the Combat Stress Center here.
According to Strong, only 25 percent of active-duty victims report cases of sexual assault.
"It's unacceptable," Strong said.
There are several reasons why victims choose not to report, including embarrassment or they just may not know how.
"We need to get the message out," he said.
Strong encouraged the audience of walkers to look out for their buddies, and make sure those that need help, get it - by talking to a mental health specialist or a chaplain.
There were more than 2,900 cases of sexual assault in the Department of Defense in 2008, said Lt. Col. Dennis Dockery, the commander of the 395th CSSB.
"One was too many," he said. "The answer starts with engaged leadership."