Thomas Tremblay, a retired police chief and the former Vermont Department of Public Safety commissioner, is intimately familiar with all types of crime, but one type has him educating professionals across the globe because it can be prevented: sexual violence.
Tremblay and Soldiers from 2nd Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division had courageous conversations April 25 at Joint Base Lewis-McChord about how the perpetrator targets their victim, the trauma of sexual violence and the role leadership plays in the prevention of sexual assault, domestic violence and dating violence.
“This discussion today is the number one reason I flew back from Korea, because (prevention of sexual assault) is one the most important things we will do this year and during my tenure as a commander,” said Col. Jay Miseli, commander of 2nd Bde. 2nd Inf. Div.
According to statistical research presented by Tremblay from the National Sexual Violence Resource Center, 91 percent of rape and sexual assault victims are female, and 9 percent are male.
“To prevent sexual violence, boys and men have to be part of the solution,” Tremblay said. “The military is leading the culture change, and (although) we haven’t solved all our problems yet, we are willing to have courageous conversations.”
Although 95 percent of men do not commit sexual assault according to the National Sexual Violence Resource Center, the remaining 5 percent have a pattern. The perpetrators target their victim using their positions of power and control to manipulate the situation, to include perceptions of co-workers.
In many cases, coworkers perceive the perpetrator in a positive way — incapable of such a crime — which is part of the deceit.
Attacks result in victim trauma. Actual physical changes occur to the human brain due to chemical and hormonal reactions to the point rational thought becomes impaired and memory is fractured.
“The victim’s first impression matters (when reporting),” Tremblay said. “Some victims were blamed by their own family, friends, the command, police, and it further impacts the trauma. The way we respond to the victim matters, which is why the words we use and leadership matter in helping a victim heal.”
Tremblay and Miseli said leadership plays an important role in the prevention and proper response to victims of sexual violence.
“We have great Soldiers, great leaders, which are represented here today, but there’s that 1 to 2 percent (who) don’t uphold the values and standards within our own formation, and it is alarming and unnerving,” Miseli said. “It is something we as leaders have to own and have to address. It isn’t just about standards and discipline; it is about the how. How are we treating each other as leaders and Soldiers? I need everyone here to make sure that how and what we are doing to enforce standards and discipline is on track.”