The Fort Bragg Special Victims Summit, hosted by Womack Army Medical Center, was held at the Fort Bragg Conference and Catering Center, Sept. 21.
The summit provided about 200 attendees with an opportunity to network and share best practices within the local first responder community.
The eye-opening and often uncomfortable, series of lectures covered a Department of Defense sexual harassment response update; violence in cyber space; what to know about pimps and human traffickers; know your part, do your part; sex trafficking victims dynamics; the impact of trauma on victims’ recall; and sexual assault trials — the good, the bad and the ugly.
Col. Ronald Stephens, WAMC commander and Fort Bragg leaders expressed their appreciation to first responder attendees.
“We sincerely appreciate the local community responders coming out to this event. Together we can make a difference,” said Stephens. “The most valuable resource we have is not money but people. The second most valuable resource is time,” he added.
“It is a great opportunity to bring this audience together,” said Col. Brett Funck, Fort Bragg Garrison commander. I appreciate everyone being here. “I know it takes time out of your day, but it shows how important this event is. I see different patches from different units, those in uniform and not in uniform. Thank you to the volunteers and Womack for putting this together.”
According to the Legal Dictionary, sexual harassment is a form of gender discrimination that involves unwelcomed sexual advances, sexual innuendo, request for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature.
Sexual assault is any involuntary sexual act in which a person is coerced or physically forced to engage against their will, or any non-consensual sexual touching of a person. It is also is a form of sexual violence, including rape, groping, forced kissing, child sexual abuse, or the torture of a person in a sexual manner.
Dr. Sharon Cooper, keynote speaker for the event, is the CEO of Developmental and Forensic Pediatrics, Physician Assistant, a consulting firm providing medical care, research, training and expert witness experience in child maltreatment cases as well as medical care for children with disabilities. She has spent a total of 38 years serving in and with the armed forces.
“It’s an honor to be able to talk to the participants today regarding different aspects of sexual assault and sexual exploitation that are alive and well today,” said Cooper.
Before speaking on sex trafficking and victim dynamics, Cooper shared some information on the subject of “mobile predators.”
“I thought I already knew a lot. I have testified in sex trafficking cases and have seen a lot of victims. I have been a bit involved in quite a few court martial proceedings, federal cases, local cases and congressional briefings, but I was really stunned when I heard about a new dynamic that I never heard before called ‘mobile predators,’” said Cooper.
“Some predators are truckers who pick up little girls or boys for the purpose of sexual assault, but many times, not to sexually assault them, but just to kill them. The fact that many of these predators are serial offenders is astonishing.”
During her presentation, Cooper shared some of her professional experience as a consultant.
“We don’t call images on the Internet of children child pornography anymore,” said Cooper. “We use to call it child pornography until we began to recognize that we, as a country, were the only country using that term. The reason it’s not the appropriate term is because the term pornography infers voluntary modeling and it doesn’t really let people know that this is actually a digital crime scene.
“Many of the victims of sexual assault have experienced violence in cyber space,” Cooper added.
Kelly Taylor, WAMC sexual assault nurse examiner and medical forensic coordinator, along with her event team, planned and executed the summit.
“I am looking in this room right now at people who always show up. They show up for me, for our patients, our clients and our special victims,” said Taylor. “We see horrible things together. We see people at some of the lowest points in their life. We see a side of humanity that hurts, but we keep showing up for them and for each other.
“There is something very unique about this place and all of us,” Taylor said. “What we have developed among Fort Bragg and the surrounding communities cannot be taught, it cannot be briefed, it cannot be bottled and taken anywhere else. What we have created ... what we have started is simply showing up for each other.”
If you want someone to “show up” for you, please contact your local sexual harassment/assault response and prevention representative; the Fort Bragg Sexual Assault Hotline at 584-4267; the Family Advocacy Program hotline (for domestic violence and child abuse) at 322-3418; or the DoD safe helpline at 877-995-5247.