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Thursday, May 1, 2014 - 11:31pm
Fort Bliss (U.S. Army) — The lines of battle have been drawn. The U.S. armed forces are waging a war against an enemy within the ranks of the most powerful military in the world. That enemy is sexual assault and sexual harassment.
In recognition of Sexual Assault Awareness Month, William Beaumont Army Medical Center’s Sexual Harassment and Assault Response and Prevention team highlighted that fight and demonstrated their involvement by sponsoring an awareness walk April 23 at the hospital.
The walk was intended to raise awareness about the reality of sexual assaults in our community, said Staff Sgt. Prycie Turner, a victim advocate at WBAMC.
The date for the event was chosen in recognition of Denim Day, an international rape-prevention education campaign. The command authorized the wear of tasteful denim attire for the day, and special T-shirts were also available for purchase to wear.
The event included remarks from Col. Michael S. Heimall, WBAMC commander, and Sgt. 1st Class Keith Miller, WBAMC sexual assault response coordinator. The walk began at the northeast lawn at WBAMC, where Heimall and Miller spoke to an audience of more than 60 Soldiers and civilian staff members.
“The core of this program is the noncommissioned officer trainer.” Heimall said.
Training, rather than the infamous “death by Powerpoint” approach, is now at the small-unit level and is more personal, Heimall said.
Heimall added that he encouraged the SHARP team members to put their arms around people and have candid discussions.
“Stop bad behavior before it escalates,” said Heimall.
In his remarks, Miller revealed that the Army’s theme this year is “Speak Up! A Voice Unheard is an Army Defeated.”
“The Army is on the offensive to fight against sexual assault,” said Miller. “Sexual harassment and sexual assault threaten the integrity, vitality and mission readiness of our all-volunteer Army.”
Miller added that these behaviors violate the bonds of trust between brothers and sisters in arms, and threaten unit cohesion.
Master Sgt. Raymond R. Cortez III, senior clinical NCO at WBAMC, said he feels more victims are coming forward and their voices are in fact being heard.
“Sexual assaults and harassment are in many ways a method of insider attack,” said Cortez.
Cortez added that Soldiers are asked to put themselves in harm’s way and while doing so, they develop a degree of trust among themselves.
“That is why this crime is so corrosive – it erodes those bonds of trust,” said Cortez. “We have to stop it.”
Ivonne Belmontes, nurse case manager and sexual assault nurse examiner at WBAMC, showed her support for the program by participating in the walk.
“I want to show my support and my appreciation for the services that we provide to our victims,” said Belmontes.
Turner said she felt the military, the Army in particular, was moving in the right direction to combat assaults and harassment.
“I can tell a difference in the command climate even within the past two years,” said Turner. “Perpetrators are being held accountable for their actions. This will be a battle we win.”