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NEWS | May 3, 2016

Stopping a real world sexual assault

By Maj. William Geddes 103rd Sustainment Command (Expeditionary)

Do all the events, training and classes done as a part of Sexual Assault Awareness Month affect Soldiers, or does it just blend into the background noise?

It had an effect on Sgt. Lucas Schafroth, an Army Reserve communications NCO for the Headquarters, Headquarters Company, 103rd Sustainment Command (Expeditionary). The Des Moines, Iowa native and resident credits the training he received on Sunday, April 18 as an impetus for the swift assistance he provided to a sexual assault victim outside his home that evening.
"At about 2:30am, my wife and I awoke to screams," Schafroth said. "Someone was yelling "Rape!" I looked out my window and saw my neighbor pick up a woman by the hair and slam her face into the back of his car, then throw her to the ground."
Schafroth ran outside immediately to find his neighbor throwing punches into the woman's stomach, back and head. He ran across the street as the attacker laid his body across the woman's body, pinning her down.
"I yelled for him to get off of her and that seemed to startle him," Schafroth said. "He stood up just enough for me to pull him off and he quickly scrambled out of reach. He started screaming that she was crazy and locked the car."
The woman told Schafroth the man had tried to rape her, and had locked her stuff in the car and refused to give it back. Schafroth asked him to return it, and when the man refused, took a few steps towards him, whereupon the man unlocked the car, threw out the woman's purse, and ran into his house. Schafroth carried the woman across the street to his house where his wife got her some water and tended to her while Schafroth called the police. 
Schafroth credits the training he received earlier that day with his quick response, even though he was not initially as receptive to it as he might have been. He had not read the training schedule when he showed up for battle assembly, and expected another round of mundane sexual assault awareness training when he heard it briefed. 
This round of training was a little different though. Instead of death by PowerPoint, Schafroth and the rest of the 103ESC HHC Soldiers split into teams and competed through a 10-station sexual assault awareness course, with different training and tests of sexual assault awareness knowledge (what's the phone number for the Sexual Assault Hotline for example) at each station, with military movements (low crawl, v-formation, etc.) used to move between stations.

Training ranged from personal defense, to how to recognize and defuse situations that might lead to a sexual assault, to how to intervene if you see a sexual assault occurring. It is that last one that Schafroth credits with getting him into the right mindset to respond.
"When I started I thought, 'Oh, this will never happen to here,' but then I started to pay more attention," Schafroth said. I think incorporating military movements made me pay attention a little more. I started to get into it, and picked up some things I didn't know. The station where you think about how to help someone who is being sexually assaulted is pretty much exactly what I walked into."
Helping Soldiers retain (and enjoy) the training is exactly what Tiffany Griffin, sexual assault response coordinator for the 103rd ESC, wanted when she designed the training event. "I didn't want everyone to have to sit around being lectured to, I wanted to make it more interactive, let them get involved more," Griffin said. Doing the training like this lets everyone get involved, exercises other skill sets, and just makes everything sink in better."
It worked for Schafroth, who said he pictured what had happened at the training and responded the same way. "It made sense," he said. "The training enhanced (my response), it was second nature almost. I think I responded the way I did, maybe 90 percent or more, because of the training."
Ultimately, things worked out. Schafroth was able to help the woman (who pressed charges against her assailant), and use the muscle movements he had developed only hours earlier through training he is now thrilled to have received.
"It's not the kind of thing you would think would ever happen," Schafroth said. "I was happy I could assist."