Sexual Harassment and Assault Response Program SHARP
In our Army today we are continuously talking to our soldiers both old and new about the infamous SHARP (Sexual Harassment / Assault Response Program). The question now comes down to why? Why are we always conducting the same training every quarter, every year in every unit, duty station, location, and MOS? The Army has had this program implemented throughout its ranks. I would say it’s because they have become tired of seeing “America’s Greatest Fighting Force” negatively affected and how much attention it was negatively getting by public, political, and media attention.
In the most recent years as our army is getting bigger, our statistics for SHARP related cases and incidents have risen. Looking back to reports from 2008 in regards to Sexual Harassment and Assault were at about 2,923 and in 2016 they went up to 6,172. Now this seems to have been quite the jump for and Army that has been training there soldiers about the things they shouldn’t do. I say a lot of it has to do with the fact that with the reporting procedures put in place are now being used by the victims. This is the case because the victims feel that the things put in place will protect them from any backlash from leadership and peers. They are also able to use the resources provided for them, such as, Medical Care and Counseling. I believe many have now found their voice and believe in the SHARP program now.
Many reports have found that one of the greatest factors for Sexual Assault and Harassment have included alcohol. They have found this to be true for over half the cases they received. Most victims of Sexual Assault and Harassment were young and fell between the ages of 18-24. Most of these cases have also had another thing in common, their “perpetrator”. He or she is almost always someone the victim knows, not a stranger. Factors that may lead to this ongoing epidemic which is a “cultural acceptance”. Many victims say that the hardest part or the worst part isn’t always the assault itself but the aftermath of the incident. Having to live with what happened to them. These incidents show us that some of our own brothers and sisters in arms aren’t holding themselves to the Army Values. We aren’t saying something when we see something.
The current trainings we do every quarter and year are helping to solve the problem of Sexual Assault and Harassment. I know this to be true as are now seeing more victims taking action against their perpetrator. They are now coming forward and putting their faith in the SHARP program. However, even though we get the training on watching for the signs of what may possibly become an incident, I think many of our soldiers need to appreciate and get a deeper understanding of the training. They need to use it as a tool to build up the confidence to help stop the assault from happening, rather than feeling out of place or too scared to intervene when they see a situation arising.
In order to end Sexual Assault and Harassment everyone would need to get involved at all levels. Everyone would need to help aid in stopping an incident from occurring and holding the person accountable for their actions. All levels of leadership should be engaging their soldiers in setting the correct examples for others and implementing the Army Values. This should be the case when they are “joking around” and holding each other accountable. Doing the right thing when no one is looking. Training for Sexual Harassment doesn’t always need to fall on big Army or on the brigade and battalion level not even at the company level. It should fall on all of us as an individual. We should also be conducting this training with our soldiers on the platoon and even squad level. Along with these trainings we also need to look at our safety measures on where can we improve to help all our soldiers no matter the rank or gender. We have seen many people tried and convicted publicly, also we need to work on the timely manner in which we handle each situation rather than waiting months to deal with infractions. They should be taken care of immediately.
When a Sexual Assault or Harassment incident happens in one of our units it greatly affects the team and the mission on hand as well as future missions. These incidents affect everyone including growth and a positive environment. With the rising number of cases we see every year in our Military we have to take note that even though it may be look at as a negative thing, it means more survivors are coming forward reporting incidents and that is a good thing. It’s helping our Army stay “America’s Greatest Fighting Force”. The trainings set forth has allowed survivors to feel comfortable in coming forward. The guidelines set in place help to educate and train our soldiers that Sexual Assault and Harassment can happen to anyone, regardless of their gender, age, or even race and that it is not limited to just the workplace. All these reasons are why the Army says Sexual Assault and Harassment will not be tolerated through AR 600-20 (Army Command Policy, chapter 8 which covers Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Program).