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Fort Carson renews commitment against sexual assaults

By Scott Harrison
Published On: Apr 23 2014 06:49:59 PM CDT
Updated On: Apr 23 2014 07:40:00 PM CDT

Col. Mike Tarsa provides details about related cases and actions at the Mountain Post.

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. -

On the day of an international observance in support of sexual assault victims, Fort Carson provided details of its recent investigation in a related matter and explained its future strategy to prevent such assaults.

Fort Carson on Wednesday participated in Denim Day, in which jeans are worn to raise awareness about sexual assaults, and to support victims.

"It somewhat aligns with our concern right now -- victim blame and suggesting that what a person wears, or their behavior, made them vulnerable," said Col. Mike Tarsa, commander of Fort Carson.

Denim Day began in 1998, the year after an Italian driving instructor was convicted of raping his 18-year-old student.  Italy's supreme court initially overturned the conviction, ruling that the victim's tight jeans implied consensual sex because a rapist couldn't have removed them by himself.

Women in Italy's parliament protested the ruling by wearing tight jeans.  The court later reversed its decision.

Denim Day came on the same week that Fort Carson explained why one of its top commanders was suspended and not allowed to join his unit on a deployment to Afghanistan until an investigation was finished.

According to a summary of the investigation, Col. Brian Pearl of the 4th Brigade Combat Team was accused by three women in the unit of being insensitive to sexual assault victims and of blaming victims for being attacked.

The women said Pearl's comments came during a Feb. 18 training session involving the unit's women.  Pearl organized the session after 27 reports of assaults or harassment in his unit were made within an unspecified yearlong time period.

Investigators said 29 other soldiers interviewed during the investigation had no complaints about Pearl's comments, and Pearl denied saying anything offensive.  The investigation cleared Pearl of wrongdoing and he has since returned to his unit.

Tarsa also outlined a five-point plan to combat sexual assaults, part of which includes having bystanders get more involved.

"There have been cases we know, that someone was witness to, or perhaps had the opportunity to intervene," he said.  "So the expectation is is there, that they step forward, that they demonstrate the courage to intervene -- and most importantly, that they care for one another."

Tarsa promised that soldiers and staff will be held more accountable, and that every accusation will be fully investigated.  He also said Fort Carson will protect victims and their privacy.

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