News: Walking the walk
Story by Sgt. Angela Parady
CAMP BONDSTEEL, Kosovo - Every two minutes, someone in the U.S. is sexually assaulted. An average of 207,754 people aged 12 and older are assaulted each year. Fifteen percent of sexual assault and rape victims are under age 12. Out of 100 rapes, only 46 are reported to police. Of those, only five lead to a felony conviction.
These statistics, based on reporting from the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network are startling enough, but it gets worse. RAINN also reports that victims of sexual assault are three times more likely to suffer from depression, six times more likely to suffer from post traumatic stress disorder, and 13 times more likely to abuse alcohol. They are 26 times more likely to abuse drugs, and four times more likely to contemplate suicide.
These can be scary statistics, but getting people to talk about sexual assault, builds awareness, the first step toward helping reduce the number of occurrences.
Command staff, officers, and soldiers from Multinational Battle Group East tried to get a different view, wearing women’s footwear for a mile walk on Camp Bondsteel, Kosovo.
As the old saying goes, you can’t really understand another person’s experience until you have walked a mile in their shoes. The saying is usually just a figure of speech, but it is becoming quite literal in many cities as “Walk a Mile in Her Shoes” Awareness Campaigns grow in popularity.
First Lt. Mary Williams, the Victim/Witness Liaison for the Task Force worked closely with 1st Sgt. Sherry Mack, the Sexual Assault Response Coordinator, to plan a fun event to get people thinking about sexual assault and harassment in a different way.
“This event invites participants to literally walk a mile in someone else’s shoes. They will have to try to balance, and seek support from others. It might even hurt, but they will make it through,” said Williams.
She hopes the event got people to think and talk about the consequences that sexual assault and harassment have for victims, both difficult topics for individuals to discuss.
Williams also hoped the event gave a positive message to the victims. “These shoes are going to hurt. It may be hard, but participants will push through it.”
First Lt. Tyler Ramrath is the officer in charge of the Counterintelligence/ Human Intelligence Analysis and Requirements Cell for MNBG-E. The Holliston, Mass., native is deployed here with the 32nd Military Intelligence Brigade. He said it’s rare that men get the perspective of walking in women’s shoes. It is something they don’t normally do. He said this one event opened his eyes to a lot of subjects men could get enlightenment from.
“The walk was fairly difficult,” said Ramrath. “My calves are killing me! I was wearing some 5-inch pumps that one of my NCO’s in my section helped me out with, and it was pretty intense.”
Ramrath was impressed with the turnout. A lot of the command staff came out to support the issue and a lot of people came out to cheer them all on. He said that the event was fun, people were excited.
“I think that people were still able to keep in mind what the event is all about, while still having a good time,” he said. “I think that’s important, especially with a topic as serious as this.”
Williams, who works for the Attorney General’s Office in South Carolina when not working for the South Carolina National Guard, said that statistically, there is high probability that each of us knows someone whose life has in some way been affected by sexual assault, sexual harassment or domestic violence, and many of us don’t even know it. Many victims often remain silent about their attacks out of fear or shame, and some are even silenced forever by their attacker.
Williams hopes that this event will help people think about the second- and third-order effects that victims of sexual crimes often face. How do they cope with the feelings from the incident? Are they less effective in their jobs? How does it affect their home life, their relationships? How do people cope with such events? Do they avoid social situations? Do they quit their job?
“But most importantly,” said Williams, “What can we do to face and prevent this problem altogether? When victims of these crimes suffer, the effects are felt far beyond the victim. Whether we realize it or not, sexual and domestic violence crimes affect each of us every day. The more aware of this we become, the more we can reduce the likelihood of sexual and domestic crimes and fight back.”