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Soldiers, families take steps to end assault
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Fort Stewart residents take to the streets of the Southern Oaks subdivision in support of the post's annual Take Back the Night walk. The walk was organized by Fort Stewart's Army Community Services to heighten sexual assault awareness. - photo by Photo by Frenchi Jones
Several soldiers and their families took to the streets of Fort Stewart for the post’s annual Take Back the Night walk on Wednesday.
The sexual assault awareness event was organized by Shirley Stephens, sexual assault response coordinator for Fort Stewart’s Army Community Services.
Stephens said the event was created to educate the public on the raw reality of sexual abuse.
“One in three women and one in six men are abused every year,” she said.  “[On Fort Stewart] I think people have a false sense of security because it is a gated community, but assaults do happen …”
According to Stephens, sexual assaults at Fort Stewart occur rarely because of programs, such as the organized walk.
“We have a great prevention and training program where we educate the soldiers and the installation as whole on the importance of sexual assault awareness,” she said. “This year our theme is ‘our strength is for defending’ and the event has grown every year.”
Just before the walk began, the group lined up in front of the community center in the Southern Oaks subdivision, where they were handed signs and greeted by the 3rd Infantry Division’s Deputy Commanding General of Manuevers, Brig. Gen. Patrick Donahue.
“By taking the actions that we’re taking tonight, we can set the example that we will not tolerate sexual assault,” Donahue said.  “Any sort of sexual violence strikes at [the Army’s core] values … it causes mistrust and that we won’t tolerate.”
Staff Sgt. Robert Swartz and his wife Carol were first to begin the one-mile trek.
Both said they decided to attend in support of the post and one another.
“I think the walk is a good idea because it raises awareness … that [sexual assaults] do happen to men and women and it is something that people should not be ashamed to talk about.”

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