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News | May 10, 2017

Huntsville unites behind awareness-driven events

By James Kidd and Kimberly Lanier-Lawrence DCMA Huntsville

HUNTSVILLE, Ala., May 10, 2017 — With signatures, teal T-shirts, jean jackets and bowling pins, Defense Contract Management Agency Huntsville recently confirmed its commitment to sexual assault prevention.

April is recognized nationally as Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month. DCMA Huntsville embraced the spirit of the month with a series of events designed to raise awareness and educate its team members as well as the local community.

Tracy Anderson, the agency’s Central Regional Command Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Program victim advocate, in collaboration with Huntsville’s Keystones organized the events. According to the group, “it hoped to initiate thoughtful discussions and to engage new and old voices in order to generate a ripple effect as a means to promote safety, respect and equality to stop sexual violence before it begins.”

Anderson has advocated for survivors for a number of years prior to joining DCMA Huntsville. She emphasizes the importance of using the word “survivor” over “victim.”

“The word ‘victim’ implies helplessness and pity, while the word ‘survivor’ implies empowerment,” Anderson said. “Surviving this type of crime confirms strength.”

April 3 served as the observance commencement, as organizers asked participants “to make an informed and personal commitment to actively challenge the behaviors that often lead to sexual assault,” by signing a proclamation located on the contract management office’s special emphasis board.

The second event was a little more colorful. The CMO participated in “Wear Teal Day” April 19. Teal has been adopted as the national color for sexual assault awareness. A majority of team members voluntarily wore teal to express their commitment and individual role in advocating against sexual assaults and violence.

Inspired by an Italian Supreme Court ruling, Huntsville team members participated in National Denim Day April 26 as the third event.

According to the Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Coalition, Denim Day was originally triggered by a ruling by the Italian Supreme Court where a rape conviction was overturned because the justices felt that since the victim was wearing tight jeans she must have helped her rapist remove her jeans, thereby implying consent. The following day, the women in the Italian Parliament came to work wearing jeans in solidarity with the victim.

The series culminated April 27 with a “Strike-Out Sexual Assault” bowling event. More than 40 CMO members, along with non-employees, were invited to bowl and engage one another’s voices at Redstone Lanes on Redstone Arsenal. Participants were provided literature highlighting statistical data of sexual assaults as well as resources available to “survivors” of sexual assaults and violence, to provide an opportunity to energize and expand prevention efforts.

Huntsville’s commitment to Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention comes at an important time within the Department of Defense, as a reemphasis on the SAPR effort has begun to support progress.

“We must eliminate sexual assault in the military,” said Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis, in a May 2017 DoD news release. “Our Department cannot tolerate actions that weaken unit cohesion, leadership, or training — the ingredients of combat effectiveness. The increased reporting and decreased prevalence captured in this report reflect higher confidence among our troops in our programs and policies. Every policy and every decision must keep faith with our people and ensure our military is ready to fight. This starts with treating all hands with respect and setting an atmosphere of trust that builds combat readiness. I will not tolerate conduct prejudicial to our values”

According to that report, a force-wide survey of active duty members estimates that 4.3 percent of military women and 0.6 percent of military men indicated experiencing a sexual assault in the year prior to being surveyed. The rates reflect a decrease from the 4.9 percent of military women and the 0.9 percent of military men estimated to have experienced a sexual assault in 2014. The 2016 rates suggest that about 14,900 military members experienced a sexual assault last year, down from 20,200 in 2014.