To raise awareness about sexual assault in the military, the Rock Island Arsenal hosted the show “Sex Signals” today at the army base.
April is national Sexual Assault Awareness Month and Rock Island Arsenal officials are trying to change the military culture when it comes to sexual assault and rape.
Today’s show featured two presenters acting out skits about everything from pick up lines, to going a little too far with a date, to rape.
The show is a unique way to cover a tough subject and engage the audience through interactive role play.
“The military is going to be the face of this change and if we can see this change in the military where we have our soldiers, people who we hold at a higher standard, then it trickles down into civilian life as well,” said Adarius Blakely, a presenter in the show.
Blakely said he didn’t believe sexual assault was a problem until it happened to one of his close friends in college.
“I was definitely one of those doubters beforehand and unfortunately it took something tragic in my life to change my mind,” Blakely said.
According to a report done by the Department of Defense, in 2012 there were 3,375 reported sexual assaults in the military, 88 percent were of women, 12 percent of men.
Lt. Col. Jennifer Schmaltz is the SHARP program manager for the First Army. SHARP stands for Sexual Harassment/Assault Response & Prevention. Schmaltz said that while the reported number of assaults are staggering, they also mean there are less assaults going unreported.
“We’ve seen a rise in reporting which we find is a really good sign that our SHARP campaign is working. It’s raising awareness and allowing victims to feel more confident in their chain of command and more confident to go in and report [the assault],” said Schmaltz.
Schmaltz said she hopes the program teaches people to not be innocent bystanders and step in when they see sexual assaults happening.
“It’s not just about preventing sexual assault and harassment, but also in supporting victims,” Schmaltz said. “We want to teach everybody that it’s everyone’s responsibility to intervene and act.”