The Army as a whole has actively been taking measures to prevent sexual assault and harassment. Training modalities have changed over the past four to five years with the main focus remaining the same: How do we prevent sexual assault and sexual harassment?
Semantics on a large scale. We must move forward by each of us considering ourselves to be in one of the three (3) proposed basic roles when approaching sexual assault and harassment:
- Victim- all of us are potential victims
- Witness- all of us are potential witnesses
- Perpetrator- all of us are potential perpetrators
“While casualties on the battlefield are understood to be consistent with our military duties, I accept no casualties due to sexual assault within our ranks,” (Mattis). Yet sexual assault and harassment remain a consistent concern within the Department of Defense. According to our own DoD records, sexual assault and sexual harassment occurs everywhere.
Every training program within the U.S. Army is reviewed for adequacy and educational value. If it is found that the program is failing, it will be reevaluated and restructured to fit the current operational needs of our Soldiers. Just because something was effective five years ago doesn’t mean it will be successful in today’s environment. The SHARP program, being a training program in and of itself, should be no different. Sitting in a classroom on an annual basis, being presented with more facts about the program than facts about how we as humans interact with each other may not be the most effective way to help change our behavior. Removing the stigma from all three of the above suggested roles while also removing some of the current perceptions of the program itself will provide us with a clean slate with which we can begin to chisel our new path.
Several factors need to be studied and taken into account when rebuilding our SHARP training program. Due to the very sensitivity of the subject, all veils should be pulled back at the top, all possible scenarios that may present themselves should be discussed, and a plan for these variables be put in place so that those who receive the training all the way down to the very bottom trust the program itself. Issues such as victim shaming and the possibility that a small number of fraudulent reports can and will be made in the name of spite and retribution should be considered as well.
Our own Army Values state, in part, the following: “Treat people as they should be treated. In the Soldier’s Code, we pledge to ‘treat others with dignity and respect while expecting others to do the same.’ Respect is what allows us to appreciate the best in other people. Respect is trusting that all people have done their jobs and fulfilled their duty,” (Army Values 1).
Respect tends to come from honesty and honesty tends to lend itself to loyalty. If respect is present, all three (3) proposed basic roles can be trained and learned. Rather than regurgitate facts, NCO’s at the lowest level can begin to have an open and honest discussion with their Soldiers and be capable of establishing open communications, trust and respect.
- 2019 The Army Values https://www.army.mil/values/
- Baldor, Lolita C. 2018 Pentagon Chief Calls Sexual Assault a Cancer in Military https://www.usnews.com/news/politics/articles/2018-04-26/pentagon-chief-calls-sexual-assault-a-cancer-in-military