By Tamika Matthews, Belvoir EagleApril 15, 2011
Erin Roberts understands the devastation of sexual assault.
The sexual assault response coordinator, who works with Army Community Service\'s Family Advocacy Program at Fort Belvoir, has personally seen the impact these crimes can have on its victims.
"I worked at the Prince William (County) Rape Crisis Center before coming to Belvoir, and I saw firsthand why people didn't come forward to talk about this," she said. "There's still such an atmosphere of silence and fear surrounding sexual assault. It's past time we break through those things."
Tuesday's third annual Sexual Assault Awareness Month 3K Run and Walk marked a critical step in shattering that stigma Tuesday. The run, Roberts said, is the central event in honor of Sexual Assault Awareness Month, observed every April and seeks to educate individuals on the dangers of sexual violence.
Soldiers and civilians gathered at the Fort Belvoir Golf Club in the morning, ready to pound the pavement in honor of a worthy cause. Winning and official results were an afterthought in light of the run's true meaning. T-shirts and other freebies were distributed at the race's end, but there were also plenty of particulars to remind runners why they were really there, including displays detailing the ways the Family Advocacy Program can help anyone who needs its services.
"It's always been a passion for me to help people realize there's help out there. You don't have to go through it alone," Roberts said. "They need to know they have resources and people to talk to when they need it. I feel if people know they have just one person to listen to them, that's a huge step on their road to recovery."
Soldiers have a great opportunity to support a cause such as sexual assault awareness, Roberts said.
"It's important to have that unity - particularly since the military is such a band of brothers and sisters, it's important to have that trust in one another to look after each other, and open other people's eyes to this problem," she said.
As the race wound down, the camaraderie between Soldiers was on full display as those who crossed the finish line went back out onto the course to encourage their fellow warriors who had yet to finish the run - another show of solidarity that, on this day, took on meaning well beyond any finish line.