Marine Corps Air Station Yuma, Ariz. -- Marine’s, Sailors, Department of Defense employees, contractors and their families geared up for a motorcycle ride to “Take a Stand” against sexual assault April 30 aboard Marine Corps Air Station Yuma, Ariz.
In an effort to increase awareness of and prevent sexual assault across the Corps, the first annual motorcycle ride helped to show the community that Marines and Sailors are making strides to support victims and, more importantly, prevent sexual assault.
As the final event in April, riders from several commands on station to include Marine Aircraft Wing 13, Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 121, Marine Wing Support Squadron 371, Marine Aviation Logistics Squadron 13 and Headquarters and Headquarters Squadron participated in a Morning Colors ceremony, remarks from the MCAS Yuma commander, a dramatic skit about a sexual assault confession and tips on ways to prevent sexual attacks.
“The motorcycle ride is physical evidence of the heart that Marines put into whatever they take on,” said Mary Chipman, MCAS Yuma’s Installation Sexual Assault Response Coordinator (SARC). “It's a joining together of bikers who are united against sexual assault and want to bring attention to this crime. When they ride together and show their teal, they are telling MCAS Yuma and the greater Yuma community that they care and will not tolerate sexual assault.”
Prevention and response to allegations of sexual assault is being taken seriously by the Marine Corps as noted in Marine Administrative Message (MARADMIN) that clearly states, “…sexual assault is incompatible with Marine Corps core values and will not be tolerated. Every Marine is responsible for creating an environment in which all Marines are treated with honor, dignity, and respect at all times; on and off duty.”
“Sexual Assault is a problem in the Marine Corps,” said Chipman. “The last yearly total was 333 assaults. This is completely contrary to the Marine Corps values of honor, courage, and commitment. No Marine should be hurting another Marine; Marines have to be able to count on each other for their very lives.”
In order to assist sexual assault victims and provide training throughout the year, each major command throughout the Marine Corps has one or more uniformed victim advocates. The additional training and familiarity of being able to speak to another Marine greatly increases the chances that a victim will come forward and report sexual crimes.
“The Marine Corps is working very hard to educate Marines to prevent possible sexual assault, while at the same time responding with excellent services to those who have been violated,” said Chipman. “Sexual assault survivors deserve to know that it wasn't their fault, that they're not alone, and that healing is possible. If a survivor wants our help, we will be there every step of the way, from reporting to sentencing and so on. We support survivors as long as they want us to.”
All month long service members aboard MCAS Yuma have spent time raising awareness and support for sexual assault awareness month. Marine Aircraft Group 13 held a high intensity workout session that combined exercise and raised awareness to educate service members about prevention and response. MCAS Yuma also published articles and placed banners and information on marquees to help increase the public’s support to stop sexual abuse.
“The Marines aren't backing off from the issue - they want everyone to know that sexual assault happens and that they're taking a stand,” said Chipman. “The motorcycle ride perfectly fits our Sexual Assault Awareness Month slogan: ‘We own it ... we'll solve it ... together.’”
One of the Marines recognized for organizing sexual assault awareness events, Master Sgt. Shaun Lawrence of MCAS Yuma’s VMFA-121, a Uniform Victim Advocate (UVA), co-chair for the event, and a native of Ulysses, Pa. said, “I think the noise the motorcycle makes will have them stop what they’re doing for awhile and get their attention for what April represents so people can step forward and take a stand.”
Motorcycle riders began the “Take a Stand” ride event from MCAS Yuma’s motorcycle range to the Station Head Quarters building prior to morning colors at 8 a.m. The Station Commanding Officer Col. Robert C. Kuckuk and Provost Marshall Maj. Daniel Lammers, offered a few words about sexual assault awareness in support of the motorcycle ride to those participating in the ride and station personnel in attendance.
As a wake-up call to the realities of how alcohol can play a part in sexual assault, a short skit was performed by Mary Chipman, MCAS Yuma’s SARC acting as a female Marine friend, and Capt. Staci Reidinger, MCAS Yuma Public Affairs Office Director acting as a female Marine victim. The skit showed the audience how hard it is for victims to not blame themselves and why many don’t report sexual assault.
Lawrence and Staff Sgt. Aaron McCatty, MCAS Yuma’s Marine Aircraft Group 13’s Uniformed Victim Advocate, were also recognized in appreciation for their dedication to organizing sexual assault awareness events.
McCatty stated that once a person, whether it’s your friend, a family member, a co-worker or a stranger violates you either physically or sexually, their identity goes away and now they are a criminal that should be held accountable. He added that too many times we turn away because it is a friend or family member, instead of stopping the perpetrator from victimizing someone else.
Rider’s loaded up at the conclusion of the morning colors presentation and ended the ride at Amberly’s Place, a crisis response advocacy center that has professionals specially trained in dealing with victims of child abuse (both physical and sexual), domestic violence, sexual assault and elder abuse. Dianne Humpheries, director of Amberly’s Place, was on hand and said a few words while also accepting donated items from the riders.
According to Chipman, Amberly’s Place was the perfect destination because victims of sexual assault are able to get physical care there, including forensic exams.
All in all, the first inaugural motorcycle ride to “Take a Stand” against sexual assault had a good outcome with donations being made and riders volunteering their time to get the word out to raise awareness for sexual assault.
In an effort to continuously support and raise awareness for sexual assault prevention and response, MCAS Yuma personnel can look forward to Mary Chipman, MCAS Yuma’s SARC, speaking at corporal’s course, substance abuse control office trainings, and anywhere else she is invited.
An upcoming sexual assault awareness and prevention play, “Sex Signals,” is scheduled for May 15.
“It’s funny and engaging, but has a powerful message. There will be three shows so that lots of Marines can attend,” said Chipman. “In July, we’ll be hosting a UVA training that’s a week long. There is always something going on – it never stops.”
If you or someone you know is a victim of any type of abuse, domestic violence, or sexual assault, a Victim Advocate can be reached 24 hours a day at (928) 941-3650. For more information about Amberly’s Place, crisis response members can be reached 24 hours a day at (928) 373-0849, via the web at www.amberlysplace.com and at 1350 W. Colorado Street Yuma, Ariz.