Story by U.S. Army Pfc. David Dumas
FORT HOOD (Now designated Fort Cavazos), Texas – Maj. Gen. John B. Richardson IV, commander, 1st Cavalry Division and Command Sgt. Maj. Michael Hall, acting command sergeant major, 1st Cavalry Division sign the 2023 Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month Proclamation.
Starting back in the ’50s and ’60s with the Civil Rights Movement, and throughout the ’70s with the Women’s Rights Movement, awareness and prevention for sexual assault has progressed into a nationally recognized effort. SAAPM is an annual campaign to raise the public’s awareness about sexual assault and educate communities on how to prevent sexual violence.
“There are two common goals with SAAPM. Prevention and awareness. When you have awareness, you are letting people know this is what sexual assault and harassment is, and here are the resources that are available to you if you do come across it,” Sgt. 1st Class Rachelle Shand, lead Sexual Assault Response Coordinator, 1st Cav, said. “Prevention is when we know what we’re looking for, and are able to begin stopping it.”
Following the integration of Pegasus Troop, a reception company used to integrate and welcome Troopers and their Families into the First Team, Maj. Gen. Richardson assisted in implementing the Sharp 360 program into the Pegasus Troop in order to ensure every Trooper is knowledgeable and understands what to do if they come across sexual harassment or assault.
“In the division, we’re doing some great education. It starts at Pegasus Troop, and not just by itself, but by the training that goes on there,” Richardson said. “We’re not just doing a PowerPoint; we are allowing you to get invested. As a result, we have actually seen a 40 percent drop in sexual assault reports in the division since the creation of Pegasus Troop.”
Each year, the U.S. Army establishes a different theme to honor SAAPM. “Intervene, we are a team: There is an ‘US’ in Trust, but can they trust in you?” will be set as the new theme for the month.
“One-third of our 40 percent drop in sexual assault reports came from previous units,” Richardson said. “This means we are building trust with our chain of command and our SHARP professionals and that the victims were able to come forward and seek the help and
services that they need, and they know they can trust us.”
The month of April marks the start of SAAPM, with the 1st Cavalry Division ensuring every Troopers duty and responsibility is to build, encourage and sustain trusting relationships, and promoting a culture where Troopers seek their Leaders’ guidance.
“We all know this won’t be solved overnight; it has been going on for decades. However, we have seen a progressive move,” Richardson said. “This is just our month to really shake everybody and say, this needs to be on the forefront of not just this month, but every month.”