FORT McCOY, Wisconsin – Sexual assault is a crime the military continues to take seriously and punish accordingly. During Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month (SAAPM) military commands across the world set aside time to focus on eliminating it from the ranks.
The 88th Regional Support Command welcomed Steve LePore, the founder and executive director of 1in6, to give a presentation on male sexual assault and abuse to more than 60 Soldiers and civilians at the RSC headquarters building on Fort McCoy, Wisconsin, April 13.
The name of LePore’s organization refers to the statistic that one in six men in the United States have had an unwanted or sexually abusive experience before the age of 18. A statistic that equates to 21 million men in the U.S.
“It’s a taboo subject,” said LePore when talking about sexual assault and abuse committed against men. “It’s important for those men and then tangentially for everybody that deals with those men – their partners, their wives, their parents, their children, their employers, their buddies in the field, so on and so forth – the idea is to destigmatize the subject by talking about it.”
During his 90 minute presentation, LePore highlighted his 10-years at the helm of 1in6 and the efforts it has made to help men who are survivors of sexual assault or abuse. He said it’s often impossible to tell if someone has been a victim just by looking at them.
“They look like everybody else in the room,” he said. “They may not tell anyone. Ever.”
But, LePore said his organization is working to change that last part. He wanted to create a safe environment where men could share their experiences and begin to heal, he said when discussing the role 1in6 plays in helping men heal.
For the 88th RSC, bringing in a speaker to highlight some of the lesser-known issues surround this month of awareness and prevention allowed it to discuss a topic that is often avoided.
“It’s important to bring the forefront the recognition of the sexual assault and trauma that’s placed on men that’s normally been pushed to the side or been ignored in the past,” said Bryan Taylor, the Programs and Services Division chief, 88th RSC. “It was an excellent tool to bring that information to the forefront.”
LePore also discussed the “lens” through which men are typically defined. A lens that shows what men should be and a lens for what men must never be.
To which, LePore responds, “it’s ok to ask for help. It’s ok to see yourself through this lens.”
The presentation concluded with a plethora of resources, both online and in print, as well as a push to get more people involved to help eliminate the stigma.
“The military is leading the charge on this issue in regards to men,” LePore said.