The Fort Huachuca community kicked off Sexual Assault Awareness Month with a Walk of Respect at Warrior-Sentinel Field Tuesday, to promote the Sexual Harassment/Assault Response and Prevention, or SHARP, program awareness and support.
National Sexual Assault Awareness Month, SAAM, is an annual observance held during the month of April to raise awareness and educate communities on the prevention of sexual violence.
The Army, along with the Department of Defense, began observing SAAM in 2005 to reaffirm its commitment to eradicating sexual assault and sexual harassment in the ranks and within Army communities, but this is the first time Fort Huachuca has conducted the Walk of Respect.
Robert Spalding, the Information Systems Engineering Command victim advocate, opened the event stating that this year, the SAAM slogan is “Speak Up! A voice unheard is an Army defeated.”
“Today is our reminder that if we are to defeat sexual assault we must have respect — respect for our teammates, coworkers, Families and people we don’t even know,” he said. “Respect means doing the right thing and treating people as you would want others to treat you and your loved ones. Respect is stepping up and taking action to correct these possible violations. This is a generation of change and together, we can make a difference.”
Chaplain (Col.) Michael Strohm, command chaplain, U.S. Army Network Enterprise Technology Command, served as the guest speaker for the event and provided words of support and encouragement to speak up.
“Just as you have gathered here for the SHARP Walk of Respect, the Army asks you to speak up for an Army culture of respect,” Strohm said. “Army leaders at all levels, across the Army and across Fort Huachuca, have sent a very clear message about the remarkable men and women who wear the uniform in the United States … this is a heck of a team gathered here this morning.
“No question about it, it is important to eliminate this insider threat that we call sexual assault. And all we have to do is look at the critical players that are gathered here to speak up against sexual assault,” the chaplain said. “Your presence is a combined demonstration of dedication to eliminate sexual assault.”
As the sun peeked over the surrounding mountains, more than 600 participants fell into formation. Following reveille, Maj. Gen. Robert Ashley, commanding general, U.S. Army Intelligence Center of Excellence and Fort Huachuca, and Brig. Gen. Peter Gallagher, Network Enterprise Technology Command acting commander, guided the two-and-a-half mile walk.
Stationed at random intervals throughout the course, victim advocates shouted motivational slogans such as “Speak up or step out!” or “I will not be a bystander!” and passed out educational material as the formation walked by.
The event was open to not only Soldiers, but to Civilians and children within the community as well. Master Sgt. Maricella Derrick, SHARP installation sexual assault response coordinator, clarified the misconception that the SHARP program only applies to active duty military members.
“That’s not true. Dependants, Family members can all receive advocacy services through on-post facilities. And for contractors, we will coordinate with outside resources to get them the services they need,” Derrick said. “What we want to get across is to get help. If we can’t get you help, we will find someone who can.”
As President Barack Obama stated in a Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month proclamation on Monday, “Every April, our Nation comes together to renew our stand against a crime that affronts our basic decency and humanity. Sexual assault threatens every community in America, and we all have a role to play in protecting those we love most – our mothers and fathers, our husbands and wives, our daughters and sons. During National Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month, we recommit to ending a culture that never tolerates sexual violence.”