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Taking off the jacket

April is about sexual assault/abuse awareness

Steve LePore, executive director of 1in6, talked about sexual abuse of male soldiers. Photo credit: J.M. Simpson

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Sexual abuse and assault are criminal acts.

The command of Joint Base Lewis-McChord takes very seriously the issue of sexual assault and abuse by, of or on any soldier.

The Sexual Harassment/Assault Response and Prevention (SHARP) guidebook is a company-level reference tool for commanders and soldiers, the Department of the Army, civilians and family members to use.

According to 2015 Department of Defense statistics, sexual assault reporting remains high. The DoD received approximately 6,000 reports of sexual assault involving servicemembers.

"Our efforts are having an impact," said Maj. Gen. Camille Nichols, director of the Department of Defense Sexual Assault Preventions and Response Office, in the DoD's report. "Reporting the crime is essential for our ability to hold offenders accountable."

Encouraging reporting of sexual assault is one of five elements of the Sexual Assault Prevention and Response (SAPR) program.  Other elements include advancing sexual assault prevention, stopping retaliation associated with sexual assault reporting, tracking accountability of sexual assault cases, and improving response to male sexual assault victims.

"We work hard to prevent and address sexual assault," commented Maj. Heath Major, 7th ID's SHARP program director.

April is Sexual Assault Awareness Prevention Month on JBLM. The base has an impressive list of events scheduled that can be viewed at jblmmwr.com/acs/other_pages/acs/sharp/sharp_cal.html, or at Facebook.com/I.CORPS.SHARP #notinmysquad.

To report a sexual assault crime, contact the JBLM 24-Hour On-Call Victim Advocate at 253.389.8469, contact the Brigade Sexual Assault Response Coordinator (SARC) or visit the SHARP Resource Center located in Bldg. 2027, C Wing.

The leadoff event concerning sexual assault and abuse awareness occurred two Thursdays ago. About 125 soldiers - mostly male - formed in the Evergreen Theater to learn from a presentation entitled, "Understanding Men Sexually Abused or Assaulted."

"One in six of us in this room has been abused by the time we were 18," said Steve LePore, the executive director of 1in6, an organization dedicated to helping men who have had unwanted or abusive sexual experiences live healthier, happy lives. "It's something we don't talk about," continued LePore, "but the problem is there."

For the next 75 minutes, he talked and engaged with his audience in a common sense manner about how males react to sexual abuse.

"Most men talk about abuse or assault, on average, twenty-two years after it happened," he continued.

LePore emphasized that the military is a diverse community and that language, cultural, ethnic, religious, economic and age stereotypes must be examined if younger soldiers are going to feel safe enough to talk about their experiences.

"Be aware of this; be aware of the cultural lens through which you see the world, and then be patient and listen to them," he said.

He explained how cultural perceptions of how males are to act influence why many don't talk about the abuse.

"Abused men wear two jackets every day: one of shame and one of guilt," LePore said. "Those are not yours to wear; there is help in taking those jackets off.  Sexual abuse hurts both men and women."

For more information, visit 1in6.org.

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