written by Spc. Kevin Duffy
Have you seen the teal ribbons tied on trees and poles around the Presidio? It’s not a decoration. It’s a statement against sexual assault.
April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month, and a few weeks ago I had the enjoyable opportunity to accrue some volunteer hours toward getting promoted to E-5 someday in the far future. OK, so I only got two of about 100 hours I need, but it’s good to start somewhere, right? But I didn’t do it for the volunteer hours.
The event was aptly named the “Chalk Walk,” which encourages service members of to take a stand against sexual assault. The messages, written in chalk on the sidewalk outside the chow halls, were inspirational, joyous, sublime — and a number of other adjectives describing a generation speaking up. Some of them were appropriately in foreign languages, because, how could you not write one in your foreign language? One “Rispettare Tutti” (Italian for “Respect Everyone”) chalked in a blue stood out next to “Prevenire La Violenza Sessuale” (“prevent sexual assault”) in bold orange and pink.
They weren’t all about sexual assault, specifically — many were uplifting and encouraging. One that stuck with me was scribbled in white chalk among phrases in a rainbow of other colors: “We are not defined by our struggles, but by how we react to them.” A subtle nod to military life? Intense studies at DLI?
I loved that one.
Granted, having mobs of Airmen, Soldiers, Marines and Sailors illustrate inspiration phrases on Combs Chow Hall sidewalk may not solve the crisis, it’s a sign that the military is not turning a blind eye to the issue. In fact, when a serviceman or woman arrives at a new duty station, they’re briefed at length on SHARP (for the Army) and SAPR (for the Marines, Navy, Air Force and Coast Guard) — programs that the military has developed for combating sexual assault.
According to Fiscal Year 2012 Department of Defense SAPRO statistics from the Pentagon, reports of sexual assault rose sharply since 2011. The report states about 3,553 sexual assault incidents were reported — that’s predicted to be only about 14 percent of the incidents that actually occurred, according to the report. The Pentagon estimated about 26,000 incidents of sexual assault occurred in 2011 and about 19,000 in 2010(1). So, you do the math.
According to a Nov. 2013 report in the New York Times, the higher statistics, however, may not be a bad thing. A DoD official who spoke to the New York Times speculated that the higher amount of reported cases meant more victims were showing a willingness to come forward to report the harassment and assault(2). Now, whether that’s true or just PR fodder, I don’t know, but it makes sense.
Here’s my two cents: If we’re serving in the military today, then it’s undoubtedly our job to take a stand for our generation. We don’t want to be remembered for letting this one go. We should be remembered for making the difference.
For more information on the Presidio of Monterey and DLIFLC Sexual Harassment/Assault Response and Prevention (SHARP) Program please visit: http://www.monterey.army.mil/Equal_Opportunity/sexual_assault.html