• Events focus on reducing sexual harassment, assault

  • April is National Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month.

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  • Katie Peterson | Staff Writer
    Every day someone around the world is protesting something new, but on April 25 one specific protest will enter its ninth year — Denim Day.
    In 1992, an 18-year-old woman from Italy was raped by her driving instructor. When she initially pressed charges, the instructor was found guilty and convicted. However, when appealed in 1999, the judge overturned the conviction citing that the victim’s jeans were so tight that the instructor could not have removed them on his own, so the victim must have willingly participated in the act.
    Italian women protested the decision by wearing jeans and by April 1999, California had the first Denim Day in the United States. Now, each year in April, during National Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month, a day is dedicated to that protest.
    Denim Day is one of several events the Sexual Harassment/Assault Response and Prevention Resource Center is organizing to promote awareness during Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month.
    Other events include the Golf Challenge April 7, the proclamation signing April 13, the Splash of Color 5K Run April 21 and the SHARP Bowl-a-thon April 27. There will also be informational booths set up at different locations periodically throughout the month. For more information about the events, call 684-2810.
    The two main functions of the SHARP Resource Center, 632 McClellan Ave., is to help victims of sexual assault and harassment, and educate and create awareness to the public, said Niyonda Tillman, Garrison sexual assault response coordinator, SHARP Resource Center.
    SHARP Resource Center personnel can guide victims of sexual assault to medical treatment and counseling, to legal assistance and to law enforcement officials for investigation. There are two types of reports that a military victim can file, restricted or unrestricted. Restricted reports do not include a criminal investigation and can only be reported to a sexual assault response coordinator, a victim advocate or a health care provider, Tillman said.
    Everything is done confidentially, she said.
    “We don’t tell you what to do, but we give you your options on what to do,” Tillman said. “Just knowing your options can be half the battle and it can help you decide what to do. We don’t pressure anybody to make any kind of report.”
    Sgt. 1st Class Marie Rood, installation sexual assault response coordinator, said she just wants victims to understand that the SHARP Resource Center is a safe place for a victim to come talk.
    “It’s scary. We understand that,” Rood said. “We’ve been through many trainings that tells us that. A lot of these trainings teach us how we possibly could have been a victim or we were possibly a bystander to something that was happening. We get it so just come to us and we’ll be there.”
    Page 2 of 2 - The SHARP Resource Center also provides education for installation leaders and awareness events in an effort to prevent future sexual assaults. Education includes monthly Department of Defense mandated training for commands and directorates on post, Tillman said.
    According to defense.gov, the Annual Report on Sexual Assault in the Military for Fiscal Year 2016 estimated that 4.3 percent of military women and 0.6 percent of military men experienced a sexual assault in the year before the survey, but only one in three service members chose to report the assault. Rood said command support and involvement in the training can change those numbers.
    “It’s important that commands show up. It’s important that people see that they are present in the program. A lot of people won’t use (the resource center) if they feel like their command is not going to stand by them and that starts with top-level leaders,” Rood said.
    “All of those people are important and they all have to talk about how much they support the program. It’s not about ‘my unit has 10 more cases.’ It’s about now your unit has 10 more people that don’t have to go through it alone and don’t have to think about this at night when everybody’s asleep. This is going to help someone for the rest of their life.”
    Tillman and Rood agreed that those at the SHARP Resource Center want to help victims get what they need.
    “To see someone have a trauma done to them so severe and harsh, it’s important to help them get their life back, to become a member of society (and) to function properly after such a traumatic event,” Tillman said.
    “I think that sexual assault, harassment or any power-based violence everybody’s experienced no matter if it’s a friend, if it’s a family member (or) if it’s yourself,” Rood said. “Because of that, I feel like I can give back in this program and use this position as a platform to help people. They’re not alone.”
    For more information, call the Fort Leavenworth 24/7 Hotline at (913) 683-1443, Department of Defense Safe Helpline at (877) 995-5247 or stop by the SHARP Resource Center between 7:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday.
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