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REDSTONE ARSENAL, Ala. Eradicating sexual harassment and assault is something Gen. Raymond Odierno, the chief of staff of the Army, has said is the number one mission for the Army. Russell Strand is leading the charge by training Soldiers, civilians and some of the most senior officers in the Army, including those at Redstone Arsenal. Strand, chief of the Family Advocacy Law Enforcement Training Division under the Army Military Police School, Fort Leonard Wood, Mo., conducted two training sessions at the Bob Jones Auditorium Aug. 29.
Strand has more than 30 years of law enforcement, investigative and consultation experience. His expertise and training includes domestic violence intervention, critical incident peer support and sexual assault, trafficking in persons and child abuse investigations.
The first training session was open to Sexual Assault Response Coordinators and Victim Advocates across Redstone. The second training session was directed to senior leaders at the rank of colonel, GS-15, chief warrant officer 5, sergeant major and above. Each session was broadcast live to nearly 100 locations.
Does anyone believe we can completely eliminate sexual assaults in the military? Strand asked the group of advocates trying to figure out how to address the challenge and Chief of Staff priority. I think its a noble goal, but a more realistic goal needs to be in place.
Strand said the solution starts by setting realistic expectations like significantly reducing its prevalence by refusing to tolerate or underwrite any misconduct.
Cultural change will not be there unless it's personal to everyone all the time, he said. The problem is not the situation it's the person taking advantage of the situation.
He continued by addressing some of people's misconceptions about eliminating situations in which sexual assaults occur.
The problem is not the victim, the problem is not reporting the issue is the offender, Strand said. The most important thing we have to think about is the insider threat. Strand described the insider threat as anything within the military ranks that harms anyone.
He even asked the very uncomfortable question to senior leaders.
If you were sexually assaulted would you report it? Most would say no. Why? Because leaders can't be victims, Soldiers can't be victims and men can't be victims," Strand said about the norm that must be changed to achieve cultural change.
Strand presented startling statistics: 1.3 a second, 78 hourly, 1,871 a day, 683,000 a year. Those are the numbers of women over the age of 18 in the United States that are forcibly raped. Strand also showed how few of those numbers are reported.
In addition to addressing the statistics, Strand also focused on misconceptions including the idea that sexual predators are easily identified or recognized.
I believe everyone is three people: the public persona, the uninhibited persona and the hidden persona, Strand said. Its in the third persona that sexual offenders thrive.
To illustrate this, Strand stood well groomed with suit and tie before the audience and took off his jacket to reveal a torn and marked up shirt with words like rapist and liar written in bright colors. How many of you knew I had this shirt on until I took my jacket off? he asked.
Strand explained that offenders are the same way. They appear 99 percent like us and it is not until they take off the jacket to reveal the third persona to their victim that they attack. Victims are left trying to explain this third person they saw that no one else sees, Strand said.
He urged leaders not to jump to conclusions in any sexual assault case. Take all reports seriously. Dont fall into the trap of trying to decide, he said. We need to change ourselves, the system, and the Army. What we dont do anything about, we accept.
Strand encouraged the audience that the Army is in the perfect place to affect change in our culture today.
We have to lead the nation on this issue, just like weve done with racism, sexism and drug testing, Strand said. We have the greatest opportunity weve ever had and thats to lead the nation in change. Heroes dont rape, neither do you, nor should you accept it.