“Stop!” Two minutes had passed.
Sgt. 1st Class Wendell Jones, 261st Multipurpose Medical Battalion, waited until fellow marchers halted on Macomb Street on Fort Bragg. In a loud voice, he announced, “Somebody in the United States was just sexual assaulted.”
Jones, part of the 44th Medical Brigade Sexual Harassment/Assault Response and Prevention team along with about 100 Soldiers and Family members continued the march to ‘Take Back the Night’ Thursday at 7 p.m.
The event’s goal was to spread awareness of sexual assault and put a face to the people to whom Soldiers and civilians can talk with in the event of a sexual assault, said Staff Sgt. Renee Villegas, 44th Med. Bde. SHARP team member.
“We need people to know this is really happening here and all over the world. (For example,) for every woman in your Family, one out of three of them has been raped,” said Villegas.
“Sexual assault is historically both military and civilian, underreported. The whole point (of this event) is to break the silence and to refer people to utilize resources available to them,” added Stacey Hale, Fort Bragg Garrison sexual assault response coordinator.
According to the Department of Defense Annual Report on Sexual Assault in the Military for FY11, rape, sexual assault and forcible sodomy were the most frequent violent sex crimes committed in the Army in the last year. In FY 2011 alone, the Criminal Investigation Department founded 515 rapes, 414 aggravated sexual assaults and 349 forcible sodomies.
Although female servicemembers represent only 14 percent of the armed forces, they accounted for 95 percent of all sex crime victims from FY2006 to 2011.
Dr. Sharon Cooper, CEO of Developmental and Forensic Pediatrics, PA, and the event’s guest speaker, spoke about the importance of preventing sexual assault. Cooper served 21 years in the military and has for the past several years, worked in both the civilian and military arenas in child abuse and developmental pediatrics.
“All of us have to educate ourselves about the realities of sexual assault. No one brings this upon (himself or herself). I don’t care if they’re drinking, I don’t care if they’re passed out, they do not do this to themselves,” said Cooper.
“It’s important for us to take a stance when we hear people who are making gender-based arguments that would suggest “Well, she was dressed a certain way,” or “Well, she shouldn’t have been there at that particular time.” This is America. We should be safe everywhere we go.
“Just as we are going to leave our country and defend those outside of our borders, it’s equally important, if not more so, that we are able to defend those who are inside our borders,” said Cooper in conclusion.
‘Take Back the Night’ attendees left the Main Post Auditorium to walk around the block showing their support for victims of sexual harassment and sexual assault. Every few minutes, the march would stop. Participants listened to different members of the 44th Med. Bde. SHARP team read statistics about victims of sexual assault.
After the march, participants activated glow sticks to light the darkened auditorium as SHARP members read male and female victims’ accounts of their attacks.
Master Sgt. Sandra Myers, 44th Med. Bde. SHARP team member, read a poem she wrote about helping a friend who was beaten and raped by her ex-boyfriend.
“It was very informative. I didn’t realize two minutes had gone by when we stopped (during the march,)” said Staff Sgt. Damien Butler, 248th Medical Detachment.
Nancy Bradley, 248th Med. Det. Family Readiness Group leader, also found the program helpful.
“I so appreciate the fact that both genders were addressed in the process,” said Cooper. “I believe that at least in our military Family, we will make a difference because if you have this many people who are concerned and really want to look after their battle buddies and others, we will see an improvement.”
For more information on reporting a sexual assault, call the Fort Bragg Sexual Assault Prevention/Response 24-hour hotline at 322-3418, visit www.fortbraggmwr.com/acs/sexual-assault/ or visit www.sexualassault.army.mil.