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Sexual assault and sexual harassment can be damaging, both mentally and physically. If either is committed within a unit, it creates a hostile work environment. This creates a lack of trust throughout the Army and diminishes the camaraderie built among the Soldiers. The Sexual Harassment/Assault Response & Prevention Program (SHARP) was created to teach Soldiers how to prevent or mitigate the likelihood that sexual assault would occur. It provides signs to identify in order to prevent and deter a situation before it intensifies. The program provides the suitable steps to take in the event someone needs to file a report if they were involved in an incident. Unfortunately, these acts take place in everyday life. However, as members of the United States military, it is our duty to prevent and eliminate sexual misconducts of all types.
When it comes to sexual assault, there are various reasons why it occurs. It is important to state that despite the situation, the victim is never to blame. One of the things is a huge factor in several sexual assault cases is alcohol. Alcohol can impair a person’s cognitive skills and effects the ability to make coherent decisions, which can create poor judgement. The intoxicated person will often misjudge situations and ignore personal boundaries. However, sexual engagements can still occur between two people who are drinking if they both give consent. If at any time one of them feels uncomfortable, they can decline consent.
Other reasons why sexual assault can happen is that Soldiers are at a new duty station where they may not know anyone. For some, this means they could follow the wrong crowd. There are even people in leadership positions who abuse their rank, taking advantage of lower ranked Soldiers. This is common among new soldiers, but it happens to soldiers of all ranks. There is a case where a senior enlisted NCO abused their rank and peer pressured young Soldiers into a prostitution ring. This fully contradicts the “one team, one fight” culture the Army strives to achieve. Sexual assault and sexual harassment negate trust and hurts the overall readiness of the Army.
I believe the SHARP training we receive in the Army is informative. However, overall, I do not believe it decreases the possibility of sexual assault and harassment occurring. A report from 2019 on sexual assault in the Army stated there was a 2% increase from 2018. According to Army Times the sexual assault frequency for women increased from 4.4% to 5.8% from 2016-2018. Men also saw an increase during the same time frame from .6% to .7% occurrence. Although the statistics do not portray a positive perspective, the strides we have made by implementing the Army SHARP program have promise of forward progression. Enforcing a zero-tolerance environment in place is one step towards a decline in sexual assault and harassment cases. That means holding people accountable for their actions from with no exemptions due to rank. When it comes to sexual assault and sexual harassment, the offender should face the maximum punishment of the law. It also starts by eliminating unprofessional, inappropriate conversations and jokes within the workplace.
Sexual assault and sexual harassment are serious issues that we need to face head on in order to eliminate it from our ranks. The SHARP program does a phenomenal job educating Soldiers on signs of prevention, as well as resources available. Creating a positive change within the environment is crucial to build trust and faith among the Soldiers and unit. We are all responsible in preventing and eliminating sexual assault and sexual harassment, a better Army starts with us.
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