New locks on female facilities designed to help prevent sexual assault
Story and photo by Spc. Lisa A. Cope
139th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment
13th Sustainment Command (Expeditionary) Public Affairs
JOINT BASE BALAD, Iraq — KBR, Inc. employees began installing cipher locks on female latrines and shower facilities in December – female residents may obtain the codes from their housing office.
The locks are a security measure to prevent sexual assault, following incidences of males entering those facilities while in use by females, said Sgt. 1st Class Johnnie M. Mitchell, the 13th Sustainment Command (Expeditionary) equal opportunity adviser and deployed sexual assault response coordinator.
Mitchell said no one was hurt during those incidents, and the males' intentions have not been determined. The locks are being installed as a preventive measure as they arrive, so installation dates are approximate, she said.
"We try to put the best preventive measures in place to keep risks down and keep everyone safe, male or female," she said.
Mitchell, a Sylvania, Ga., native, said she is working to get peep holes installed in the doors to the containerized housing units on base as another safety precaution, but deliberations are ongoing.
As an additional safety measure, Mitchell said she hands out whistles and flashlights for use at night or in the event of an attack.
Fastening the chain lock in CHUs, carrying a flashlight and whistle at night, and attending a self-defense course are all ways service members and civilians can protect themselves against sexual assault, she said.
Air Force Staff Sgt. Michael R. Morris, a flyaway security team leader with the 332nd Expeditionary Security Forces Squadron, has been an instructor for four self-defense courses during his deployment and is scheduled to teach his last class Jan. 7 before he redeploys.
Morris, a San Diego native, said the course is open to anyone but is geared more toward women. The class teaches students how to escape attacks, use pressure points and may soon include a lesson on fighting stances, he said.
"We started (teaching the class) because we thought it would be a good idea for the local base populous females to have a way to defend themselves in case of a situation … knowing that the area is more prone to assaults than state-side," he said.
Mitchell said knowing how to help stop sexual assault is the key.
"Sexual assault has no place in our Army or our ranks," she said. "It degrades the mission, it destroys everything the military stands for. That victim could be your mother, your sister, your brother, it could be somebody you love and care for. … Some people just do not understand (what it means) to be a victim of sexual assault."
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Tips to help guard yourself against sexual assault