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Digital survivor story program for Sexual Assault Awareness, Prevention Month tested

By Suet Lee-Growney | 1ST INF. DIV. POST | April 14, 2017

     The 1st Infantry Division Sexual Harassment/Assault Response and Prevention Pro­gram at Fort Riley was one of the first three in the nation to test run the Digital SHARP Survivor Story program April 3 and 4. Other installations testing it are Fort Irwin, Cali­fornia, and Fort Leavenworth, Kansas.

     Spc. Jarrett Wright, a victim of sexual assault, is the main character in the program created based on his real-life experience. The project is a joint effort of the SHARP Academy in Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, Army Research Laboratories and University of Southern California Institute for Creative Technologies.

     Barbara Garber, 1st Inf. Div. SHARP program manag­er, said the focus this April for Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month is “Sexual Assault Not In Our Army.”

     “When someone comes in contact with a survivor of sexual assault, sometimes they don’t know what to ask; they don’t know how to re­spond,” Garber said. “(The DS2) is not only going to raise awareness, it’s going to help people develop empathy when it comes to survivors of sexual assault. It’s going to help victims feel they’re not so alone.”

     Sgt. 1st Class Jason Kreiling, 1st Inf. Div. SHARP officer, said the interactive program allows Soldiers to ask Wright how the military responds to sexual assault.

     “I believe this product can really change how leadership and Soldiers in general view sexual assault as an issue in the military,” Kreiling said.

     He says the program pro­vides a window into a problem many never had the opportu­nity to view before.

     “Just the sheer confidential piece of sexual assault and how hard it is for folks to be vulner­able and talk through these is­sues … Seeing how wrong it can be and how hard it can be for victims, it’s pretty moving,” Kreiling said.

     Kreiling was brought in on the production team as a consultant and subject-matter expert.

     The idea, funded by the Combined Arms Center and SHARP Academy, began in September 2016. The produc­tion took place January in Los Angeles over the span of two weeks. During those two weeks, Wright was interviewed over a five-day period and asked more than 2,000 questions.

     “We put Spc. Wright in this facility we call The Light Stage,” said Timothy Wansbury, technology transition officer at Army Research Laboratories.

     “It is an environment where we are able to video record — with dozens and dozens of cam­eras from different perspectives — his answers to the questions that we ask him related to his experiences,” he said.

     The goal of the program is for the SHARP Academy to train leaders, Soldiers and sexu­al assault response coordinators about male sexual assault.

     “You will be able to see Spc. Wright on some kind of visual display,” Wansbury said.

     This display will be controlled by a single computer.

     “You will be able to ask Spc. Wright a question in your own words; in English,” he said. “Our system will be ‘smart enough’ to understand what you are asking, to reach into the database of recorded video responses and to play back his answer to your question.”

     After the ironing out all the kinks during the beta phase, Wansbury said the final product will be delivered to the SHARP Academy in August.

     Brig. Gen. Patrick Frank, 1st Infantry Division and Fort Riley acting senior commander, tested the DS2.

     “That’s outstanding,” Frank said.

     He gave a few suggestions to the DS2 project developers that this program be available Army wide and on hologram form, and in time, perhaps, a female sexual assault victim could be included.

     “Females in our formation are sexually assaulted more than the male, so I would encourage you to come up with a female avatar; a female survivor,” he said.

 

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