2018-05-04 / Front Page

Stop assault before it starts

Laura Levering
Fort Gordon Public Affairs Office


Julia Armstrong, manager of Fort Gordon’s Sexual Harassment Assault Response and Prevention program, helps introduce this year’s Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month Command Program, held in Alexander Hall on April 26. 
Bill Bengtson / Fort Gordon Public Affairs Office Julia Armstrong, manager of Fort Gordon’s Sexual Harassment Assault Response and Prevention program, helps introduce this year’s Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month Command Program, held in Alexander Hall on April 26. Bill Bengtson / Fort Gordon Public Affairs Office Every 98 seconds, someone in the U.S. is sexually assaulted. That’s an average 321,500 victims each year. Fort Gordon, along with installations across the nation, are taking steps to lower that number one victim and one perpetrator at a time.

The U.S. Army Cyber Center of Excellence and Fort Gordon held a Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month command program April 26 at Alexander Hall. This year’s theme is “SHARP: Shaping a Culture of Trust; Protecting our People Protects our Mission.”

The program’s guest speaker, Dr. Vanessa Guyton, is an award winning speaker and trainer dedicated to victim advocacy and assisting victims with achieving victory. Based out of Columbia, South Carolina, Guyton supports the military by providing specialized training and certification for thousands of sexual assault coordinators and victim advocates.

Guyton led the audience through an exercise that challenged them to put themselves in sexual assault victims’ shoes. As part of the exercise, Guyton participants were instructed to discuss details about their latest sexual encounter. As she expected, the audience’s reaction was a mix of shock and awe.

“How do you think victims feel when they come to report and they have to tell something so personal and tragic that has happened to them ... when the investigator is talking to them, they’re asking things like ‘were you penetrated?’” Guyton said. “It is not easy to talk about this.”

In the military where much of its culture is built on trust, Guyton emphasized the importance of being empathetic if someone approaches you in confidentiality. Everyone in the audience received a business card with the acronym “GIVE;” each letter representing an effective and supportive mean of communication.

Be gentle and careful not to judge.

Be interested.

“Don’t be looking at your watch or looking at your cell phone like you got some other place to be, because the most important place you could be is in that moment to support them,” Guyton said.

Validate their emotions by reassuring them that they are entitled to feel the way they do. And respond in an easy manner by suggesting they seek medical attention. Go with them if they want to file a report and assure them that you have their back.

Talk to victim advocates.

Victim advocates are so motivated in your organization ... get their advice,” Guyton said. That’s what they’re there for – to be there for you and to be there for someone that you know that needs help.”

Julia Armstrong, CCOE and Fort Gordon Sexual Harassment/ Assault Response and Prevention program manager, emphasized that she and her team cannot do it alone.

“We need you to be our eyes and ears,” Armstrong said. “We need you to be a champion as an active bystander because we know that protecting our people protects our mission.”

Col. David Ristedt, Dwight D. Eisenhower Army Medical Center commander, said that while his staff focuses on taking care of victims, he hopes people will turn their attention to the perpetrators.

“I hope we reduce the number of victims out there by going after the heart of the individuals who are thinking that the behavior is ... OK,” Ristedt said. “If you see it, stop it. I think that’s the message that we all need to take out of this.”

Where to go

If you have experienced unwanted sexual contact, get in touch with your brigade sexual assault response coordinator, victim advocate, healthcare provider, special victims counsel, behavioral health, military police, or a chaplain. You can also call the Fort Gordon Sexual Assault Prevention and Response/ Sexual Harassment/Assault Response and Prevention Hotline 24/7 at (706) 791-6297.

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