JFHQ takes pledge to speak up against sexual violence

Soldiers and Airmen assigned to the Virginia National Guard’s Joint Force Headquarters join together with their family members at Fort Pickett, April 13, 2014, to participate in a sexual harassment and assault response and prevention, or SHARP, event that included taking a pledge to help prevent and speak up about sexual harassment and assault, a trivia session on the realities of sexual assault and ways Soldiers and Airmen can help to prevent it, and a message from one of the unit’s Soldiers whose child was a victim of sexual assault. April is sexual assault awareness month and across the nation and throughout the military branches, the month aims to promote awareness and prevention of sexual violence through education and special events. (Photo by Staff Sgt. Terra C. Gatti, Virginia Guard Public Affairs)

Soldiers and Airmen assigned to the Virginia National Guard’s Joint Force Headquarters join together with their family members at Fort Pickett, April 13, 2014, to participate in a sexual harassment and assault response and prevention, or SHARP, event that included taking a pledge to help prevent and speak up about sexual harassment and assault, a trivia session on the realities of sexual assault and ways Soldiers and Airmen can help to prevent it, and a message from one of the unit’s Soldiers whose child was a victim of sexual assault. April is sexual assault awareness month and across the nation and throughout the military branches, the month aims to promote awareness and prevention of sexual violence through education and special events. (Photo by Staff Sgt. Terra C. Gatti, Virginia Guard Public Affairs)

FORT PICKETT, Va. – Soldiers assigned to the Virginia National Guard’s Sandston-based Joint Force Headquarters came together with their families April 13, 2014, and pledged to help stop sexual violence and to speak up about sexual harassment and assault. The sexual harassment and assault response and prevention, or SHARP, event took place at the unit’s family day, held this year at the Twin Lakes Recreation Area near Fort Pickett, Va.

Staff Sgt. Jo-Ann Lindquist-Rucker, a unit victim advocate for JFHQ-VA, designed and led the event. Her goal, along with recognizing April as Sexual Assault Awareness Month, was to take education about sexual harassment and sexual assault out of the classroom and create a memorable training event for the Soldiers and their families.

Lindquist-Rucker began the event by calling up Soldiers from the audience to play the victim and the perpetrator. She then continued to call up additional volunteers to play chaplains, unit victim advocates, family members and friends of the victim, medical personal, the commander and first sergeant, as well as local and military law enforcement to show how many lives one single sexual assault case affects.

Lindquist-Rucker also shared an anonymous letter from a Soldier within Joint Force Headquarters whose child was sexually assaulted. The letter compared the trauma of sexual violence with the trauma of combat.

“I wanted the Soldiers to know that there’s victims among us,” Lindquist-Rucker said. “People sit in the briefings and you see people go ‘ugghhhh,’ but you don’t know if you’re offending someone because the person next to you might have been assaulted and you don’t know. I wanted to make it personal to Joint Force Headquarters.”

The final part of the event was a walk that culminated in all present unit members, along with their families, taking a pledge to help prevent sexual assault and harassment and to speak up against sexual violence.

The pledge reads as follows:

“As a proud member of the United States Army, I pledge to be a force behind the fight to eliminate SEXUAL HARASSMENT AND SEXUAL ASSAULT from our community. I will have the personal courage to INTERVENE – no matter the time or place. I will ACT decisively to stand up and protect members of my Army family from all forms of sexually offensive and abusive behavior. I will be MOTIVATED by my Army Values to remain a constant force in the fight to Protect My Team. I PLEDGE TO BE A FORCE!”

After returning from the walk, Soldiers posed in front of a poster signed by the unit members, showing their commitment as a unit to defeating sexual violence.

“We do SHARP training once or twice a year, and I wanted to do something people will remember,” said Lindquist-Rucker. “I want them to know that it’s personal, this isn’t just another training event. People are living this every single day.”

According to the Department of Defense, “Sexual Assault Awareness Month occurs in April and commits to raising awareness and promoting the prevention of sexual violence through use of special events and public education. SAAM provides an annual opportunity to reinforce our commitment to strengthening the professional climate across the armed forces where the cultural imperatives of mutual respect and trust, team commitment, and professional values are reinforced to create an environment in which sexist behaviors, sexual harassment, and sexual assault are not condoned, tolerated, or ignored.”

“The main thing is, it’s not the commander’s program,” said Lindquist. “It’s every one’s program because we all have to be proactive. If you see something, say something!”

Safe Helpline – Sexual Assault Support for the DOD Community
(877) 995-5247
Text: 55-247 (inside the U.S.)
Text: 202-470-5546 (outside the U.S.)

Photos: JFHQ Soldiers and Airmen pledge to help prevent sexual assault – April 13, 2014

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