Eight subject-matter experts who, in the past, have assisted Fort Stewart victims of sexual assault, sexual harassment, domestic violence, child abuse and discrimination now are co-located at the Marne Advocacy Resource Center.
MARC opened its doors Tuesday afternoon with a ribbon-cutting ceremony led by Maj. Gen. Mike Murray, commander of the 3rd Infantry Division and Fort Stewart-Hunter Army Airfield.
“(This facility) is about bringing all resources to one location,” Murray said, then asked everyone at the ceremony to stand up if they are involved in preventing sexual assault and sexual harassment. “That’s right. Everybody should be standing. ... It takes each and every one of us to fix this problem.”
Murray said the Army is focused on preventing sexual assault and sexual harassment because it’s the right thing to do. He said the real issue is not just the assaults but how soldiers treat their fellow soldier.
“We’re struggling with how we treat each other as professional soldiers,” he said, adding that in five or 10 years, the facility might not be needed anymore. “Hopefully, in a couple years ... we’ll all meet back here to close this facility.”
Following his remarks, Murray was joined for the ribbon cutting by Sgt. 1st Class Natalie Lewis, the 3rd ID’s Sexual Harassment/Assault Response and Prevention program manager. Lewis said there has been an increase in the number of sexual assaults in the military, but said she believes many of the cases are old and just now are being reported due to Army-wide support for victims.
“We’ve seen some delayed reports,” Lewis said. “Maybe victims feel compelled to come in now because there’s more support.”
She said MARC provides support for all victims, not only sexual-assault and harassment victims, but also victims of child abuse and domestic violence. She said the facility’s subject-matter experts include representatives from the SHARP program, Winn Army Community Hospital’s behavioral health, family advocacy, children’s advocacy, Criminal Investigation Command, staff judge advocate and equal opportunity.
“We work a normal duty day, but we’re on call 24 hours a day,” she said. “I think victims will find that Maj. Gen. Murray and the chain of command here really do care.”
As staff members celebrated the facility’s opening with a cake cutting, Lewis introduced Terri Liles of Helen’s Haven to the media. Liles will have an office at the MARC facility, which she said they’d use for forensic investigations of child-abuse cases. However, she will continue to maintain Helen’s Haven in Hinesville.
Lt. Col. Bill Anderson, MARC program manager, said the facility supports all types of victims, including those affected by discrimination. He said having all resources available in one center helps eliminate some of the problems people have experienced when trying to get help from a government bureaucracy. Having a pool of subject-matter experts like family and children’s counselors helps assure victims they can and will get the support they need.
“I don’t have any statistics in front of me,” Anderson said when asked about the scope of sexual assaults at Fort Stewart. “But any sexual assault is one too many. Our goal and the Army’s goal is to prevent (sexual assault and sexual harassment).”