“We don’t quit until we have eliminated sexual assault from our ranks.”

By Bruce Anderson, U.S. Army Europe Public Affairs
Sept. 15, 2010

GARMISCH, Germany -- “It’s unfair of me to ask this of you, but I need you to do more. We have got to drive the [sexual assault] rate down.”

That was the charge Gen. Carter Ham, U.S. Army Europe’s commanding general, gave to the 80-member audience as he opened the 2010 Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Program Advocate Training conference in Garmisch, Germany, Sept. 14.

“I’m very proud of what you have accomplished, but at the same time I would say it’s not enough,” Ham said.

The audience included experts from universities and agencies whose programs are being tested and implemented in USAREUR, Unit Victim Advocates, Sexual Assault Response Coordinators and Deployable SARCs, legal and law enforcement experts, and selected members of Army in Europe’s Better Opportunities for Single Soldiers program. A representative each from the Department of Defense Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office, Department of Defense Dependent Schools-Europe, and the USAREUR Equal Opportunity and Equal Employment Opportunity offices also were in the audience.

“This is, for me, a very real readiness issue, so we’ve got to attack it as such. It is a crime. It is the right thing to do to try to stamp this out,” Ham said.  “But from an Army institutional stand-point, I know that our Soldiers and our units will be more ready to accomplish the many missions the Nation expects of us if we eliminate sexual assault from our ranks.”

Ham pointed out that eliminating sexual assault in USAREUR and the rest of the Army will take a team effort.

“It can’t be just those in this room,” Ham said. “Though you’re on point for this particular issue, it’s got to be a collective effort.”

The effort has to include commanders and senior noncommissioned officers, civilian leaders, and all of the units and organizations associated with USAREUR, Ham said.

To end sexual assault, USAREUR and the rest of the Army should focus on a trait that Soldiers demonstrate when in combat, Ham said, crediting the idea to former USAREUR Command Sgt. Maj. Ralph Beam.

“He (Beam) said, we see every day in our Army, in Iraq and Afghanistan, Soldiers coming to the aid of other Soldiers. If you’re in a firefight, there’s not a single Soldier in uniform who would not expose himself or herself to imminent danger to protect a comrade who is being shot at,” Ham recounted. “Why is it, that that happens in Iraq and Afghanistan, but when we’re in Germany, or Italy, or Belgium, [and] a Soldier is at risk of being sexually assaulted, we don’t have that same instinct to come to that Soldier’s aid as we do a Soldier who is being shot at?”

That discussion led Ham to conclude that USAREUR can use that trait of coming to another Soldier’s aid in the fight against sexual assault.

“I think we have a unique opportunity, because of the culture and the family in which we exist, the family of Soldiers, [that] we already have an instinct to go to the aid of another Soldier who is in harm’s way,” Ham said.

“I think we can build upon that in our Bystander Intervention programs and try to capitalize on that same motivation that causes a Soldier to intervene when another Soldier is at risk in combat, and get them to apply that same desire and that same motivation to intervene when a Soldier, civilian or Family member is at risk of sexual assault.”

Ham said he is pleased with the progress made in responding after a sexual assault, especially the training being done to improve investigator and prosecutor skills to handle the special aspects of sex crimes. He also emphasized the importance of training those who are likely to be the first to receive information about a sex crime having been committed.

“That first encounter, when a victim of sexual assault makes that first gesture, whether it’s to a co-worker, whether it’s to an NCO leader, whether it’s to a military policeman, whether it’s to a person at a medical treatment facility, that very first encounter makes all the difference in the world,” Ham said.

While acknowledging the great importance of maintaining an effective response program, Ham asked the conference attendees to focus now on how to improve prevention efforts. And he also told them how long to continue with their work.

“We don’t quit until we have eliminated sexual assault from our ranks.”

The conference, taking place Sept. 14-17, includes discussions on topics including bystander intervention, sexual assault forensic examinations, medical treatment following a sexual assault, SAPR support in a deployed environment, exposing predators, how rapists use drugs to facilitate the assault, and other topics.