JBB kicks off Sexual Assault Awareness Month with leaders' workshop

Story and photo by Sgt. John Stimac
13th Sustainment Command (Expeditionary) Public Affairs

JOINT BASE BALAD, Iraq — The Army and Air Force came together to host a sexual assault awareness leaders' workshop at Morale, Welfare and Recreation center east, April 2 at Joint Base Balad, Iraq.

Commanders, first sergeants and senior noncommissioned officers from all services attended the workshop to discuss sexual assault awareness, as well as direct questions to a panel designated to address possible legal ramifications when dealing with a victim and perpetrator of sexual assault. This served as the kick-off event of Sexual Assault Awareness Month.

Sgt. 1st Class Johnnie Mitchell, the equal opportunity adviser and the deployed sexual assault response coordinator with the 13th Sustainment Command (Expeditionary), said the purpose of the workshop was to ensure commands at every level understood sexual assault, proper reporting procedures and how to deal with victims and perpetrators.

"As the unit DSARC and (unit victim advocate), it is our responsibility to take care of the victim, ensuring they understand their reporting options," said Mitchell, a Sylvania, Ga., native.

The council also presented a skit, to show how easily an incident can go from sexual harassment to sexual assault.

"That skit depicted what can go wrong, and the trends show that those exact situations are happening not only on JBB, but theater wide," she said.

Mitchell said the amount of commanders and senior enlisted advisers that came to the event and voiced their concerns about sexual harassment in the workplace were evidence of the importance of the issue.

According to statistics provided by United States Forces – Iraq, in March alone there were 24 reported cases of sexual assault; 75 percent were perpetrated by acquaintances of the victim.

In 2009, there were a total of 152 cases of sexual assault. So far in fiscal year 2010, there are 61 cases of sexual assault theater wide.

Service members asked about the difference between an unrestricted and restricted reporting of sexual assault, and how each one affects the victim.

According to Army Regulation 600-20, restricted reporting is the option recommended for victims of sexual assault who wish to confidentially disclose the crime to specifically identified individuals and receive medical treatment and counseling without initiating an official investigation.

Unrestricted reporting is the recommended option for victims who desire medical treatment, counseling and an official investigation of the crime. It is important to use the most current reporting channels, including the chain of command, according to the regulation.

Upon notification of a reported sexual assault, the SARC assigns a victim advocate. Details regarding the incident will be limited to only those personnel who have a legitimate need to know, according to the regulation.

Brig. Gen. Paul L. Wentz, the commanding general of the 13th SC(E) and a Mansfield, Ohio, native, said he was concerned with improving the situation.

"As leaders, we need to know how to look at these problems and get them eliminated," he said.

Wentz said an environment needs to be created for Soldiers to feel comfortable when coming forward.

"Being in a deployed environment, we face another problem – alcohol," he said. "Leaders need to do a better job to get after these issues and get rid of the alcohol problem."

Wentz said it was a good time to collectively look at all the ideas presented in the forum.

"This is not just a military problem, it is a problem in society," he said. "We have to spend time today as leaders to work this out, because this is important."

Mitchell said this workshop seemed to have a great impact on the commanders.

"They had a lot of unanswered questions (before the meeting)," she said. "They got the clarity they needed and a better understanding of the program."

Mitchell also said the question and answer sections were productive because of high levels of participation.

"We need to ensure that this gets down to the lowest level," she said.


news photo
Senior Airman Patricia Radasa, a command and support staff specialist with the 332nd Expeditionary Operations Support Squadron, 332nd Expeditionary Operations Support Group, 332nd Air Expeditionary Wing and a Port Orchard, Wash., native, and Staff Sgt. Jessica Torres, a battalion logistics noncommissioned officer with the 118th Multifunctional Medical Battalion, 1st Medical Brigade and an East Hartford, Conn., native, present a skit for sexual assault awareness month, April 2 at Morale, Welfare and Recreation center east at Joint Base Balad, Iraq