In observation of Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month, Fort Leonard Wood is adding an “Awareness Tree” to its mix of static and informational displays in hopes of shedding light on the number of individuals affected by sexual assault.
According to Carol Oberwager-Spencer, Installation Management Command Sexual Assault Response coordinator, the tree was chosen to symbolize the strength and resiliency of sexual assault victims.
“Victims are some of the most courageous individuals I have ever met,” Oberwager-Spencer said. “It takes courage, strength and resiliency to withstand and report an assault.”
The 7-foot, 4-inch, white tree will be on display during the month of April in the main entrance of the installation’s Main Exchange. SHARP team members will be adding teal ribbons, representing local victims, to its branches throughout the month as they receive them.
“There will be ribbons and receptacles throughout the post for anyone impacted by sexual assault, whether as a victim or on behalf of someone they know. We encourage individuals to take a teal ribbon, complete it, and place it in a receptacle,” Oberwager-Spencer said. “They can fill the back out with non-identifying information, such as a year, location or initials, and place it in the receptacles or bring it to me at Army Community Service building.”
Ribbons are available at ACS, brigade SHARP offices, the first floor of Building 470, the Bruce C. Clarke Library and near the tree itself.
The purpose of observing SAAPM month is to raise awareness, prevent sexual violence and provide essential support to survivors.
Fort Leonard Wood SHARP program manager Bob Lewis said the events scheduled throughout the month are important to the installation.
“Setting aside a month to focus on sexual assault awareness helps keep the topic on the forefront of every Soldier and Department of the Army civilian’s mind,” Lewis said. “It helps us get information into the hands of those who need it. The outreach events enable our team to talk to individuals and increase awareness in a non-confrontational, informational context. It allows us to support the survivors of sexual violence in a real and public way.”
Scheduled events begin today with an awareness booth from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Main Exchange and continue as follows:
— April 12, awareness booth from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Post Exchange
— April 13, SAAPM Forum and awareness booths from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the John B. Mahaffey Museum Complex, with guest speakers scheduled for 10:30 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. The 14th Military Police Brigade is hosting the SAAPM Forum scheduled for April 13. The event is open to the public and will not only involve SHARP teams but also include awareness booths on other prevention programs, such as child abuse, teen dating violence, alcohol awareness and organizations, such as the Genesis House.
— April 14, Awareness 5k walk/run beginning at 8 a.m. at the Davidson Fitness Center, followed by a children’s half miler at 9 a.m. This event is also in support of Month of the Military Child and Alcohol Awareness.
— April 25, Denim Day
— April 26, awareness booth from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Main Exchange
— April 27, SHARP Golf Scramble at the Piney Valley Golf Course, time to be announced later
— April 30, Second annual Senior Leaders SAAPM Luncheon with guest speaker Sarah Bercaw with the Training and Doctrine Command’s Diversity House
“We are trying to have all agencies that a victim could come in contact with at the forum so the first time they meet is not when someone was sexually assaulted or sexually harassed,” said Sgt. 1st Class David Bourne, 14th MP Bde. Sexual Assault Response coordinator. “We also are having two speakers come and share their story.”