By Nina Borgeson
JOINT BASE LANGLEY-EUSTIS, Va – The U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command will host a Leader Professional Development webinar on Apr. 19 at 11 a.m. EDT, discussing the culture surrounding sexual violence.
This webinar is part of the monthly LPD series featuring influential leaders, both military and civilian, to help inform the Army on various topics related to the Army Profession and encourage an open discussion between the speakers and their audience.
The LPD is one of many discussions taking place on the topic of sexual violence as April is Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month.
Maj. Gen. Daniel Christian, TRADOC deputy chief of staff, and guest Dr. Gail Stern, founder of Catharsis Productions, LLC, will discuss how to understand and approach sexual violence culture, as well as how to combat the harmful behaviors of sexual assault and harassment.
TRADOC is the Army Command responsible for overseeing the recruitment, training, and education of every Soldier, to include the culture surrounding harmful behaviors.
Comedy is not the first approach that comes to mind when discussing sexual assault prevention, but Catharsis Productions’ interactive two-person show titled “Sex Signals” does just that. Through the strategic use of humor and relatability, the show fosters a connection with the audience, building rapport while educating and creating a positive transformation on this important issue.
According to Stern, extensive research has proven that the strategic use of humor can positively affect how people receive and process challenging information. Instead of demonizing the audience, it humanizes the situation and reduces the distance between the educator and student.
“This is especially important when teaching about sexual violence: the subject alone can trigger defensiveness and shame in our audience members,” Stern explained. “What humor can do, in the right hands, is reduce that defensiveness and shame through the reframing of the content.”
She explained how reframing the content changes the perspective of “you’re all failures” message to “we are human, and this is a human failure—a cultural failure.”
In 2011, “Sex Signals” was added to the Army’s basic combat training and became a foundational part of developing new Soldiers on the path to success.
Though the program was only a part of BCT for nine years, Stern stated she believes it played a role in advancing the overall training conversation and how it is approached by leaders of all levels.
Educating Soldiers in basic training is important, Stern states, but it is just as essential for leadership and higher ranking Soldiers to ‘continuing receiving’ training on the topic.
She explained that leaders, and the climate they foster, are critical to ending sexual violence. “Training for higher-ranking Soldiers should focus on building their capacity to notice and respond to the risk and protective factors outlined in the Defense Organizational Climate Survey, which includes sexist and sexually harassing behaviors, as well as general workplace hostility.”
Stern continued to explain the country has an inconsistent approach to sexual health and relationship education, and that it puts society at a disadvantage when it comes to identifying unsafe or predatory situations.
“If we never learn what ‘the good’ looks like, it’s much harder to tell when something has crossed from one side of the continuum of harm to the other,” she said.
When asked what key takeaway she would like viewers to leave with from the upcoming LPD, Stern stated “we will never be perfect, but once we learn to identify the toxic behaviors and take responsibility for intervening, we will make genuine progress towards creating a military that supports survivors and holds those who harm accountable.”
Government agencies and military installations, who are interested in administering any of the programs Stern offers through Catharsis Production, can reach out to Ben Murrie, director of Contracts and Client Relations, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
To view and participate in the LPD discussion, visit TRADOC’s Facebook page, DVIDs, or the TRADOC watch page at www.tradoc.army.mil/watch/ where you can submit questions to be answered throughout the session by LPD panelists.