By Ben Sherman, Fort SillApril 5, 2012
FORT SILL, Okla. -- You may have noticed a lot of red and teal colored ribbons around Fort Sill. They are part of a dual emphasis on alcohol abuse and sexual assault during April. Both campaigns, sponsored by the Army Substance Abuse Program and the Sexual Harassment, Assault Response and Prevention Program, seek to raise awareness of these problems that impact the Fort Sill community.
"Unfortunately, alcohol abuse and sexual assault go hand in hand. It is a very deadly combination," said Stephanie Armel, Training and Doctrine Command risk reduction coordinator. "Sexual assault has been impacted mostly within our younger population, anywhere from 18 to 25 years of age. With that population they already partake in high risk behavior, such as clubbing, alcohol abuse which leads to the vulnerability for sexual assault."
Armel said the majority of sexual assaults are not committed by strangers, but by acquaintances, usually at a party or a social gathering where things go a little too far.
"Everybody needs to remember that 'No means no.' So it is key that we teach about alcohol abuse, because that alone can help deter or prevent the sexual assault," Armel added.
"Most all cases of sexual assault started off with sexual harassment. It's a stepping stone to take things to the next level," said Sgt. 1st Class Michael Kimbel, 75th Fires Brigade SHARP representative. "Sexual assault is the most underreported crime there is. It affects everybody, regardless of whether we know who the victims are or not. The victims are out there and we need to promote getting them care, both male and female," Kimbel added.
Kimbel added sexual harassment progresses and then there is an assault, with alcohol often leading up to the assault. It's people taking advantage of other people when they are under the influence.
"Allowing people to make proper decisions and not putting themselves in a vulnerable position is key to preventing these assaults," Armel said. "Alcohol desensitizes people to what their situation is around them. So if we can affect one, the alcohol abuse, we can affect the sexual abuse as well."
Jay Khalifeh, ASAP program director, reminds Soldiers that getting drunk rarely leads to good decisions.
"If you are drinking to get drunk, you are drinking at high risk," Khalifeh said. "You are going to be putting yourself at high risk, along with those who are with you, and that goes for drugs too, illicit drugs like Spice."
Khalifeh added if a Soldier is drinking to excess and their friends or family are starting to complain, they should seek help through ASAP.
"If you're starting to have medical problems, legal problems, work problems or other types of problems because of your drinking, seek help," he said.
1st Lt. Brian Caldwell is one of six battalion prevention leaders for the 214th Fires Brigade. He has seen the problems that alcohol abuse can cause.
"Obviously alcohol can be a big problem among Soldiers," Caldwell stated. "We work closely with the ASAP people to deal with this problem. If we have a strong prevention program, then hopefully we can have a healthy Soldier population where they can deal with their alcohol problems and prevent this type of abuse from happening," Caldwell said.
"The Army used to be much more understanding, but in this day and age when the Army is trimming down, they are a lot less understanding," Khalifeh added. "We still want to give Soldiers a chance to rehabilitate but we're not going to give them multiple chances like we have in the past. There's only one thing to steer people back in the right direction when they are self-destructive or destroying their unit and that is pain and consequences."
"That's what ASAP is here for, to try and help you overcome the problem and get you back on track so you can give your best to the Army every day," Khalifeh said.