By Chelsea Bissell, U.S. Army Garrison Grafenwoehr Public Affairs March 26, 2012
GRAFENWOEHR, Germany -- The U.S. Army Garrison Grafenwoehr community will soon find itself confronted by a slew of red silhouettes peppered around the garrison.
Staged by the Family Advocacy Program in honor of April as Sexual Assault Awareness Month, each silhouette tells a different story. Accompanying each red cutout are real personal accounts of sexual assault from victims and witnesses, some with tragic and some with positive outcomes. Each narrative, however, portrays the pervasiveness of sexual assault in the Army community.
But, the message is also one of potential change. The Family Advocacy Program hopes to bring an end to the "silent witnesses" who stand passively by during sexual assault and its precursor, sexual harassment.
According to Carolyn Bryant, a Family Advocacy Program specialist working on the project, many in Grafenwoehr do not see sexual assault as a personal threat because of dramatized visions of strangers waiting in dark places to attack their victims.
"In this garrison, it's not the guy in the alley with the mask on," she said. "It's usually someone they know and it usually comes down to consent. When alcohol is involved, consent is incapacitated."
Because partying and drinking often precede many sexual assaults, witnesses can play a significant role in preventing an incident.
One personal account on a red silhouette describes a night at a bar. A bystander sees a friend plying a woman with drinks. The friend then approaches the witness, bragging that the woman will come home with him, but she does not realize it.
Though the witness eventually stopped the potential sexual assault, Tammy Ricketts, director of the Family Advocacy Program, points to this anecdote as a perfect example of witness intervention.
Witnesses, she said, are the people who have to stop sexual assault, for they have potential to change someone's mindset. It is possible that the drink-slinging young man at the bar never realized he was quickly heading down the path of sexual assault, Ricketts explained.
"Sometimes it takes another person to help us realize what we're thinking," she added.
Along with the silhouettes, FAP will lead a multipronged attack against sexual assault come April, setting up info tables around the garrison and dispensing flyers in a barracks outreach campaign. An AFN commercial compiled of impromptu interviews of Soldiers, spouses and civilians in The Exchange, will also air throughout the month.
FAP anticipates that the activities this April will support the I AM STRONG campaign, while continuing awareness of the problem and the community's power to stop it.
Though the sexual assault numbers on Grafenwoehr remained the same from 2010 to 2011, there's reason to believe that awareness outreach does work. The number of people reporting assault has also increased, which marks a positive step forward. This means, explained Bryant, that "more people are using the resources available to them," rather than an increase in sexual assaults.
A decrease in the number of sexual assaults, added Ricketts, takes time.
"We're in the process of affecting culture change," she said. "We're in progress."