News Stories

Mobile District SAAPM

USACE, Mobile District
Published May 7, 2024
Woman given a presentation.

Maryanna Kuehne, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Mobile District paralegal specialist and Victim Advocate, hosts a trivia game during the “Denim Day” luncheon for Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month, April 25, 2024, Mobile, Alabama. SAAPM is recognized in April by both civilian and military communities. The DoD observes SAAPM by focusing on creating the appropriate culture to eliminate sexual assault and requiring a personal commitment from all service members. (U.S. Army photo by Chuck Walker)

By Chuck Walker

MOBILE, Ala. – The overall numbers on sexual assault in the country are sobering, especially when you consider the fact that sexual assault is generally underreported.

When you consider the fact that someone who is a victim or has just become a victim is reading those stats, they could be overcome with painful thoughts and emotions, thinking there is no hope.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Mobile District focuses on Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month (SAAPM) throughout April and also has Victim Advocates ready to assist, comfort, and aid victims of sexual assault and to train others to help prevent it from happening.

“My primary role is to be where I am needed, ready to provide a listening ear, encouragement, support, resources, and or education,” said Maryanna Kuehne, paralegal specialist and District Victim Advocate. “SAAPM is humbling to coordinate for a few reasons. It’s the time of year we shine a light on these heavy topics and remind people that 1) they will be believed, 2) they are not alone, and 3) they have support. I also love this annual opportunity to personally connect with my community.”

Kuehne said one key to being a victim advocate and the SAAPM program, in general, is to provide a voice for those who want to speak up but are often silenced and to show support for those who are speaking up and telling you what happened.

“My soap box is Sexual Assault Prevention and Response,” Kuehne said. “I am offering the opportunity for people to join me in the fight to make this one corner of our world a little brighter. They don’t have to carry the full torch; they can simply carry a candle.”

According to the Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network (RAINN) a sexual assault occurs every two minutes (or less) in the U.S. alone.

Sexual assault can happen to anyone, no matter their circumstances, and there is but one simple truth regarding it. We are all potential victims. One in three women and one in four men will experience some form of sexual assault in their lifetime.

“Regardless of a person’s age or gender, the impact of sexual violence goes beyond physical injuries that may be present,” said Narissia Skinner, Executive Assistant to the Division Commander and Victim Advocate for the South Atlantic Division. “The trauma of being sexually assaulted can linger and cause stress. I would advise victims to seek counseling and to try the SAFE helpline as a resource.”

Victims can, for numerous reasons, be reluctant to share what happened to them or be scared to report the incident. They might feel shame that the incident occurred or even blame themselves for the attack. That is where a caring, comforting friend and ear can help.

“If someone trusts you enough to disclose their assault to you, consider these ways of showing concern,” Skinner said. “Be supportive and as non-judgmental as possible. Please show the utmost care and concern. Let your friend or co-worker be believed. Let them know they are not alone. Be sure also to maintain confidentiality.”

Kuehne said that one way we can help prevent sexual assault is also to prevent sexual harassment and make our workplaces “zero tolerance” when it comes to inappropriate jokes or harassing behavior.

“Establish in your unit that sexual harassment and sexual assault are not acceptable, full stop,” Kuehne said. “Listen and show support to those in need, and if you aren’t sure what to do with a situation, ask.”

There are many ways people can get involved or show support for SAAPM. Some of them are becoming advocates themselves, being active bystanders, calling out inappropriate behavior when we see it, and standing up for those who have been victimized.

“When we work as a unit, we can build a better climate for our colleagues,” said Kuehne. “Our culture depends on how we hold each other accountable daily, in and out of the office. Building that culture around you and your team is the key to building the confidence to come forward.”