By Emily Brainard, Army Flier StaffApril 16, 2010
FORT RUCKER, Ala. -- In an effort to preserve unity among the Army's band of brothers and sisters, military and civilian officials educate the public this month in hopes of reducing the number of sexual assaults.
The Army phrase, "My strength is for defending," encompasses this effort during April's Sexual Assault Awareness Month, said Karen Boyd, House of Ruth prevention educator. She provided important prevention information at a Lunch and Learn session April 7 in the Chapel of Wings annex.
"Preventing sexual assault is part of (a Soldier's) duty," she said.
Education and proactive behavior are what can lower the grim statistics that show someone is sexually assaulted every six minutes, Boyd said.
"Rape and sexual assault is very serious," she said. "The community needs more knowledge so they are aware of how they can protect themselves. Every moment is an opportunity (for rape to occur). Anyone could become a victim."
Lunch and Learn sessions - conducted every Wednesday this month - help get this message out, according to Stella Davis, Army Community Service Family Advocacy Program manager.
"(We) need to be more open about talking and asking questions (to) change attitudes and cultural norms," she said. "The more we focus on this social issue, the more we have people buy into the prevention. They see it is a social problem. Any one of us can be victims or assaulters."
Education methods like this free ACS class are working and shifting popular opinion because more and more victims are making it a point to report the crime, Boyd noted.
Officials don't believe the increased statistics reflect a rise in the number of actual assaults occurring but instead show that more victims are comfortable seeking medical and legal assistance. Even so, statistics still show not everyone comes forward to report acts of violence against them, meaning few predators are ever put behind bars.
In fact, only about 32 of every 100 rapes are reported, Boyd said. Of those 32, only 16 of the rapists are arrested, and only 13 people in that group are ever prosecuted. Seven of those 13 are eventually convicted, and five of the seven actually go to prison.
There are numerous reasons these numbers are so low, she said. The No. 1 cause is victims are afraid rapists will retaliate and attack again if they report the actions to police. Others include the inability to locate or identify perpetrators after crimes are conducted, victims choose not to follow through with charges, victims are ashamed or embarrassed to testify or law officials don't believe victims' stories, Boyd added.
Officials hope with more education even more assaults will be reported. Ideally, though, people can take steps to ensure these offenses never occur in the first place.
The most effective way to prevent attacks is to not put oneself into bad situations, Boyd said.
She advises men and women to follow the buddy system by not going outdoors late at night by themselves, or, if they must, ask for security to walk them to their cars from work or stores.
People should also exercise judgment and trust their instincts. She said rapes are typically planned, and attackers can't carry out these plans without easy opportunities.
About a dozen Advanced Individual Training students from A Company, 1st Battalion, 13th Aviation Regiment, attended the session to learn more about the topic and how they can keep themselves and other Soldiers and Families safe.
Spc. Travis Williams said he appreciated learning about sexual assault, noting two close Family members have been affected by the crime.
"I came to learn prevention tips," he said. "A lot of people brush it to the side, saying it won't happen to them. Once you find out it's real, everyone should be aware because no one's safe."
Fellow AIT member Spc. Maximilian Tate said he will take back the knowledge he gained to his unit to "spread the word and talk about it so people are aware of it."
Fort Rucker provides recovery resources for those dealing with sexual assault. Sexual assault response representatives can be reached at 379-7946 or 379-7947, and religious assistance is provided by post chaplains at 255-2989. For military information about sexual assault, visit www.myduty.mil.
To teach people how to physically protect themselves against attackers, Fortenberry-Colton Physical Fitness Facility staff hosts a self-defense class April 16 from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. For more information, call 255-3794.
Additional Lunch and Learn courses are held April 21 and 28, from noon to 1 p.m. at the Chapel of Wings annex. Discussion topics are sexual assault investigation and medical examination processes.
The free sessions are open to the public and participants may bring brown bag lunches. For more information, call 255-9644.