CAMP ZAMA, Japan – When choosing the design for an arts and crafts contest he entered, Spc. Anthony Lister wanted to create something impactful and culturally relevant, with a message that was close to his heart.
For April, which is Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month, Camp Zama’s Sexual Harassment/Assault Response and Prevention Program Office, or SHARP, hosted a community contest that asked entrants to decorate a bowling pin.
Entrants could decorate the pin however they liked, but were encouraged to incorporate SAAPM iconography, such as the teal ribbon associated with the monthlong observance.
Lister, assigned to 38th Air Defense Artillery Brigade, was selected to represent his unit in the contest. In finalizing the central theme of his design, he decided on a shorthand message made up of three letters, a number and a punctuation mark. That message was “;IGY6.”
The acronym stands for “I Got Your Six,” the “six” being short for “6 o’clock,” or the direction directly behind a person. “I got your six” originated as a military phrase of assurance from one service member to another meaning, “I’m watching your back.”
In recent years, the acronym has come to be associated with PTSD and suicide prevention awareness in the military, with the semicolon added to the front to encourage a person to pause and reconsider their intention to harm him or herself.
The message is also often presented in distinct colors, which each carry a specific meaning. The semicolon is teal, which represents post-traumatic stress disorder awareness. The “IGY” is black, representing the heavy hearts of those who suffer from PTSD or who have lost a loved one to suicide. And the “6” is red, symbolizing the blood that has been shed as a result of suicide.
“I first found out about ;IGY6 from my father, who does have the tattoo on his arm,” Lister said. “He is a retired veteran who volunteers with other veterans at the USO and Red Cross.”
Though the acronym is associated with PTSD and suicide prevention awareness, Lister thought his ;IGY6 design would be suitable for the contest. Published findings from 2021 showed that 75% of sexual assault survivors experience PTSD beginning as soon as one month after the assault. Other statistics have shown that rape victims are 13 times more likely than non-crime victims to attempt suicide.
Rounding out the design for his pin, Lister said he also wanted to incorporate Japanese culture into his entry. He further researched Japanese art and carefully chose symbols he felt would represent not only the victims of sexual assault and harassment, but also the people who intervene or help those in need, including SHARP advocates.
“I fortunately did have knowledge of some Japanese symbolism to help set up my theme for the pin,” Lister said.
He included in his design the lotus flower, which symbolizes resilience, purity, self-control and enlightenment; the peony flower, known as “botan” in Japanese, which represents courage, prosperity, fragility and beauty; the “foo dog” (actually a lion), a guardian symbol that represents protection, peace and calmness; and a tiger to represent strength and to ward off evil.
The winners of the contest were announced May 9, and Lister found out his design had placed first among 10 contestants based on votes from community members.
Lister said he was very surprised when he learned he had won. He said he saw entering the contest as a great opportunity for people who saw his design to learn about the symbolism he included and to hopefully get them interested in learning more about ;IGY6.
Cheryl Rendon, the sexual assault response coordinator for US Army Garrison Japan, organized the contest. She said the intent was to bring more awareness to sexual harassment and sexual assault, and to continue the fight to end occurrences within the military ranks and in military communities.
“We at the SHARP Program Office were surprised and delighted with the creativity that went into designing all the organizations’ SAAPM-focused pins,” Rendon said.
All 10 entries in the contest will be on display until June 16 in the rear entrance of the US Army Japan headquarters building.