FORT RUCKER, Ala. (April 23, 2015) — The Army’s goal for the Sexual Harassment Assault Response and Prevention program can be summed up with one word: change.
Sgt. 1st Class Joseph Blackman, U.S. Army Aviation Center of Excellence and Fort Rucker Sexual Assault Response coordinator, said he considers himself to be a means to facilitate that change.
“(SHARP) is a program with the goal of eliminating sexual assault and harassment from the ranks,” he said. “That’s a textbook-type answer. In we reality, we are working to change the culture of the Army. In essence, we are a change agent.”
The program’s current I. A.M. STRONG campaign encourages Soldiers to intervene, act and motivate.
Sgt. 1st Class Robin Williams, 110th Aviation Brigade SARC, said the program’s foundation begins with the proper education.
“SHARP is a program designed to change the culture of the Army and provide services to those who have been victimized,” he said. “We are here to educate and train. We want the people who are unaware they are violating the rules to know what the rules are and how to not violate them. Their actions might have been part of the culture and could have been acceptable prior to them joining the military. We have to deprogram them and educate them.
“We are trying to educate our forces and their family members on what ‘right’ looks like,” he added. “This will help us achieve our goal of eradicating (sexual assault and harassment) from across the force and change the culture of the Army.”
SHARP’s website defines the program as “an integrated, proactive effort by the Army to end sexual harassment and sexual assault within its ranks” that “permeates the Army structure from the Pentagon down to the individual Soldier level” with a “full-time staff at brigade level.”
The program also:
– Promotes cultural change across the Army with a vision toward a culture of discipline and respect in which Soldiers intervene in sexual harassment and sexual assault to protect one another;
– Includes a comprehensive effort to educate leaders and Soldiers about sexual harassment and sexual assault;
– Employs a concrete training program that teaches Soldiers to be alert to serial offender tactics, to intervene to stop incidents and disrupt offenders, and where and how to seek help; and
– Provides commanders with the essential resources, education, and training they need to succeed in bringing an end to sexual harassment and sexual assault in the Army.
“We are there to help the people who have been victimized,” Williams said. “We provide the services to help them become whole again.”
According to Blackman, anyone can offer assistance and aid in the program’s success.
“For the common citizen to support the program, they simply need to stand up and be counted,” he said. “When an organization hosts an event, show up and show your support.”
Blackman said support through event attendance can create a domino effect and increase awareness across the board.
“Someone can attend one of these events and then go to dinner with a friend afterwards,” he said. “Their friend asks what they did today and, the next thing you know, they are discussing the program and advocating for sexual assault and harassment awareness and prevention.”
According to Blackman, one factor of the program’s success can be measured by the number of reports filed.
“Higher reporting may appear to be a negative, but it is actually an indicator the program is working,” he said.
Williams said it indicates increased confidence in stepping forward and asking for help.
“You have instilled confidence across the force,” he said. “They feel they can come to you and speak to you concerning situations where they have been wronged.”
According to Williams, SHARP’s benefits stretch past the gates and into the surrounding communities.
“We are part of the community, as well,” he said. “As we, as a force, change, we influence the surrounding communities. A Soldier who has gone through SHARP training may be out at a local club and see someone get drugged. Because of their training, they will know the proper way to respond. They will know to contact the police or security and alert them to the situation.
“As we change, we impact the community,” he added. ”
For more information about SHARP, visit www.sexualassault.army.mil.
If you or someone you know is a victim of sexual harassment or assault, SHARP hotline at (334) 470-6629.