By Andrew S. Jones
416th TEC Sexual Assault Response Coordinator
DARIEN, Ill. - April was nationally recognized as Sexual Assault Awareness Month, an opportunity for the nation and citizens to speak out against this crime and honor its survivors.
The 416th Theater Engineer Command (TEC) participated by including all of its units in a donation program spread across 26 states.
Multiple suggestions were considered, but ultimately the idea of hosting a command-wide clothing drive won.
The goal was for each unit to host its own internal clothing drive and donate all clothes to a local rape crisis center. The donated clothes are meant for victims who have been seen and treated at hospitals across the states. Oftentimes, clothes are collected at the hospital for evidence, leaving victims with only a hospital gown to wear.
The 416th TEC’s command set a goal of collecting 1,000 articles of clothing for victims of sexual assault with the hopes of crushing it.
“To have (Soldiers” take the time to show so much compassion is wonderful,” said Patty Murphy, of Oak Lawn, Ill., director of advocacy for Pillars, a social service agency that cares for sexual assault victims.
The results of the clothing drive were awesome.
Some units donated staggering amounts of clothes. For example, the 365th Chemical Company, out of Salt Lake City, Utah, donated more than 1,800 articles of clothing to a local rape crisis center. That unit’s contribution alone almost doubled the goal for the entire command. The 808th Engineer Company, out of Houston, , and the 494th Brigade Support Battalion each donated more than 200 items plus a monetary donation to the Rebuilding Hope Crisis Center in Tacoma, Washington.
The 416th TEC Headquarters collected 125 articles of clothing and donated them to the Pillars Crisis Center out of Hickory Hills, Illinois, on May 19.
“Just to feel the support of the community is really incredible, so we really appreciate the support of those who’ve contributed in their donations,” said Katheryn Smith, of Westchester, Illinois, and volunteer coordinator and community relations specialist for Pillars.
Overall, the command raised more than 2,500 articles of clothing to support victims of sexual assault.
The clothes were collected through Soldiers’ or family members’ donations. The hope was not only to support victims of sexual assault, but start the foundation of a lasting relationship between 416th TEC’s units and community organizations that help victims of sexual assault.
This was the first time the center had received a donation organized by military members.
“I think that having the collaboration between these two institutions is incredible,” said Murphy. She said she was shocked when she received the call from the 416th TEC, originally expecting to provide a referral. Instead she found herself accepting a gift on behalf of Army Reserve Soldiers.
April served as an important month for the 416th TEC in raising awareness to the issue of sexual assault. The command’s leadership and senior representatives were extremely grateful to all those units that actively participated in the drive and focused on the needs of victims. Although April has come and gone, it is imperative that these types of efforts continue every month of the year. Every individual plays a vital part in the prevention of Sexual Assault.
“I think it’s not just a victim’s issue. This is not an issue just for women, but for women and men, and the more we get involved and increase awareness, the more we can decrease the possibility of sexual assault,” said Smith.