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Stages of Healing (SOH) recently brought a musical production on base which touches on the emotional issues of love and abuse.

Every two minutes someone is sexually assaulted in this country, according to the U.S. Department of Justice. Because of this, and the Department of Defense’s efforts to curb sexual assault and harassment within its ranks, SOH hosted two free performances of ‘Soul on Fire, The Musical,’ on base June 26 and 27.

Stages of Healing brings various artists, performances and presentations to Walter Reed Bethesda, “allowing walls to be broken down, facilitating dialogue, and contributing to an overall feeling of togetherness,” explained U.S. Public Health Service Lt. Cmdr. (Dr.) Micah Sickel, coordinator for SOH events on base and a behavioral health psychiatrist at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center (WRNMMC).

Playwright and composer Tyrone Stanley’s “Soul on Fire, The Musical,” has appeared on stages nationwide. Stanley describes “Soul on Fire” as more than just a show, but a cathartic experience and educational production which speaks to the need for breaking the silence in situations of abuse.

“I came up with the concept for Soul on Fire many years ago, well before the 90s,” Stanley explained. “In my childhood I experienced some of the same things dealt with in the themes in Soul on Fire. It’s a story of love and redemption. It chronicles the life of a young girl who has been wronged by society. It chronicles a love story. It chronicles a tragedy.”

Stanley added, “There’s been no greater fulfillment for me in my work thus far than having people respond in a way that lets me know [Soul on Fire] has inspired them in some way. The characters led me down a path to my own healing. I’ve come to a place in which all I want to do is see people experience what I experienced creating these wonderful characters.”

Air Force Capt. Natosha Smith of Walter Reed Bethesda’s Child and Adolescent Behavioral Health Clinic, attended the Soul on Fire performance and said, “It was amazing. It is a great way to convey a message through song and acting.”

The captain said the message she took away from Soul on Fire is the deep impact sexual abuse can have on its victims internally, their relationships with others, and how they can possibly heal from that trauma.

Another message the play conveyed, and one the military emphasizes among its troops, is to let victims know they are not alone, and it’s okay to speak up. “Communicate and express what you have gone through; there is help,” Smith said.

According to the U.S. Department of Justice’s National Crime Victimization Survey — there is an average of 237,868 victims (age 12 or older) of rape and sexual assault each year. Justice officials add 22 percent of victims were younger than age 12 when they were first raped, and 32 percent were between the ages of 12 and 17. Also, 70 percent of rape and sexual assault victims know their attacker prior to the assault, and in a survey of college women by the Justice Department, about 90 percent of rape and sexual assault victims knew their attacker prior to the assault.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also report 25 percent of girls and 17 percent of boys are sexually abused before the age of 18, and many crimes of rape and sexual assault go unreported, added Justice Department officials.

In May, the Department of Defense (DOD) Fiscal Year 2013 Annual Report on Sexual Assault in the Military was provided to Congress reporting DOD received 5,061 reports of alleged sexual assault involving one or more service members as either the victim or alleged subject (suspect). This was a 50 percent increase over the 3,374 reports received in FY 12. Of the 5,061 reports, about 54 percent involved service member on service member crime.

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said upon releasing the report, “We have a long way to go before we get close to solving this problem.” He encouraged victims not to be ashamed to report the crimes and that defense officials “are all listening to you, and we will do everything we can to support you.”

At Naval Support Activity Bethesda and WRNMMC, information about how to prevent and report sexual assault and harassment is available from the Sexual Assault Prevention and Response office at 301-319-4087.

For more information about Stages of Healing, call Lt. Cmdr. Micah Sickel at 301-295-2492.