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Breaking Bonds and The Sacrilege Of Integrity Through Sin: Implementation of SHARP Program

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“The fact that this sexual assault still occurs in our ranks is heartbreaking, and it’s antithetical to everything we value in this institution. And at the risk of stating the obvious, it is simply unacceptable.”

– Army Secretary John McHugh

A soul weak in character may be tempted to prey upon the vulnerable. Whether victims of opportunity or misfortune, the survivors of sexual misconduct carry the scar of the encounter for the rest of their lives. The number of reported sexual assault cases for 2016 alone reached 14,900. According to the Department of Defense Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Annual Report, 68% of victims did not report the crime that same year. Disgraceful. Within the military, such lasting damage can be irreparable. These predators dishonor the legacy built by the men and women who gave their lives for this nation. Sexual violence remains a pervasive evil, the price of which is high for the service, and it decimates confidence in the chain of command.

Tony Porter, CEO and co-founder of “A Call to Men”, has described the Army as a microcosm of the entire society. He argues that sexual assault is not a military problem, but one of the entire society. Delving deeper past our military and into American society, the National Sexual Violence Resource Center presents disturbing statistics of its own. According to their data one in five women and one in 71 men will be raped at some point in their lives, 80% of rape cases involve someone the victim knew, and 8% of rapes occur while the victim is at work. The Army acting as a microcosm of society, mirrors and magnifies these statistics. Fiscal year 2017 shows that 81% of sexual harassment incidents occur while on duty with 90% of complaints coming from enlisted service members. Reporting of sexual assault incidents has increased significantly from 1 in 14 service members (SM) making a report in 2006 to 1 in 3 SM reporting in 2016. Although reported incidents have continued to increase each year since 2006 when the DoD began to measure these levels, sexual violence still occurs throughout the military to this day. Things are improving, but the above statistics are little comfort to the survivors of this crime.

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Controls must be implemented at the lowest level. The forging of trust based on professionalism and passion for the members of an SM’s unit create a familial cohesion. A family protects their own. Bonds of vigor make the sacrilege of that trust less likely. This will vary from unit to unit and can be nurtured by a strong Non Commissioned Officer Corps. Sexual assault occurs when opportunity meets foul intent. An individual with malicious intent may exploit quid pro quo conditions for sexual favors. Environments that foster a hostile atmosphere may pressure the unwilling into compromising situations as well. According to AR 600-20: Sexual assault must involve physical contact. While sexual harassment can involve physical contact, it can also refer to verbal or other forms of gender discrimination of a sexual nature. Sexual assault is a crime punishable by the Uniform Code of Military Justice. Despite the harsh consequences that follow conviction, or perhaps because of this, a number of incidents have been brought to Congressional hearings on sexual assault in the armed forces. From a PBS Frontline report, March 2013: At a March Senate hearing on sexual assault in the military, senior officers from all five branches of the military said that while they were committed to addressing sexual assault, they also strongly opposed stripping commanders of the power to intervene in military justice. Enforcement of zero tolerance policies regarding sexual crime must be enforced at all levels without exception. This hypocrisy has caused many soldiers to lose faith in the judicial system. The ratio of unreported crimes is so high due to fear of retaliation by those within the chain of command and due to the low disciplinary action rate. Fiscal year 2017 saw 62% of cases involving accused SM’s with sufficient evidence to take disciplinary measures. The current SHARP Program must be implemented as a cultural change and promoted from the lowest levels to restore confidence in the legal system. If this does not occur, many more will remain silent in their suffering.

‘SHARP is an enabler of readiness. If you have Soldiers who have experienced sexual assault or sexual violence, they are not ready for the fight.’

-Director of Army SHARP Program Monique Ferrell

For years the United States has been preparing their forces to re-engage in peer to peer conflict. With countries like China and Russia modernizing their militaries in preparation to unseat American dominance, the Army needs every capable soldier ready to engage and destroy those who threaten the American people and our allies. Every incident of sexual harassment and assault degrades our ability to fight as a unified force. All available measures to enforce and promote cultural change throughout the Army must be taken, lest we atrophy in the face of our growing adversaries.

References:

  1. https://www.sapr.mil/public/docs/reports/FY16_Annual/FY16_SAPRO_Annual_Report.pdf
  2. https://sapr.mil/public/docs/reports/FY17_Annual/DoD_FY17_Annual_Report_on_Sexual_Assault_in_the_Military.pdf
  3. https://www.sapr.mil/sites/default/files/FY17_AR_Report_Statistical_Highlights_Info_Graphic_FINAL.jpg
  4. https://www.nsvrc.org/statistics
  5. https://sill-www.army.mil/sharp/_docs/documentation/AR%20600_20.pdf
  6. http://www.sexualassault.army.mil/faqs.aspx
  7. https://www.pbs.org/wgbh/frontline/article/why-the-military-has-a-rape-problem/
  8. https://dod.defense.gov/News/News-Releases/News-Release-View/Article/1168041/dod-releases-fy-2016-annual-report-on-sexual-assault-in-the-military/
  9. https://www.army.mil/article/208167/sharp_professionals_focus_on_prevention_intervention_at_2018_conference
  10. https://www.army.mil/article/139526/Report_shows_Army_making_progress_in_SHARP_efforts/
  11. https://www.army.mil/article/60756/new_sexual_assault_harassment_program_emerging
  12. https://dod.defense.gov/News/Article/Article/613843/dempsey-us-forces-must-adapt-to-deal-with-near-peer-competitors/
  13. http://www.dia.mil/News/Speeches-and-Testimonies/Article-View/Article/567087/worldwide-threat-assessment/
  14. https://www.cbsnews.com/news/china-military-modernization/
  15. https://worldview.stratfor.com/article/russia-procurement-plans-reflect-militarys-modernization-struggles-putin

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