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The former Sergeant Major of the Army Dailey said: “Not in my squad,” but what about everyone else? Junior soldiers do not realize the influence they truly have on the military culture the moment they arrive at their unit. The SHARP (Sexual Harassment/Assault Response and Prevention) Program seeks to improve climate and culture as a means of prevention through leaders, especially junior Non-commissioned officers.
In today’s Army soldiers repeat SHARP training more than they think they can count, yet we still see a rise in cases thus far (DOD Annual Report on Sexual Assault in the Military). Since the initiation of the NIMS (Not In My Squad) campaign there has been a lot of focus on the prevention of sexual harassment/assault. The usual SHARP training received by soldiers is greatly focused on the building of awareness, as well as, reporting options for victims, however, the first NIMS (Not In My Squad) workshop focused on three session topics: Identity, Climate, and Culture (Research Product 2018-08). The informational version of SHARP training we do in units currently robs soldiers of knowing just how much of an effect they really have on the culture within the Army in not just in positive ways, but also in negative ones which we can clearly see when case numbers do not stop rising annually.
Sexual Assault is not something that will vanish overnight. It is something that will not vanish when soldiers lack understanding of how their individual identity, maybe even a simple inappropriate joke, can become counterproductive in the fight against Sexual Assault. A simple “joke,” destroys the culture we as an Army wish to build that excludes increases in Sexual Assault cases every fiscal year until now (DOD Annual Report on Sexual Assault in the Military) and that is most certainly not funny. A bystander to sexual innuendos and inappropriate jokes quickly gives the impression that as an Army we still harbor tolerance for something we are obviously trying to eliminate. Just like America has a “Leniency Epidemic,” (A Study of Leniency Granted to Convicted Rapists in America and Australia) maybe the Army does too in its own ways. It is the future non-commissioned officers and the soldiers further below them who carry the answers and the means to see a decline in sexual assault reports. It is not just a junior non-commissioned officer and above that can sit through three sessions on how one’s identity can affect their work climate and eventually the military culture we have now for the better.
One day we will be further ahead as an Army than we are today, but regardless of that, and the way the statistics lean us, it is still a step in the right direction. The quantity of SHARP training we do yearly has certainly not led us astray. A huge issue within even the civilian side is the fear that lays behind reporting sexual assault or sexual harassment. An increase in cases annually should not just be seen in a negative light when the fact is our soldiers feel empowered enough to report due to training. Our Army culture is progressing in the correct direction if a soldier, who has just suffered something traumatizing, knows how to get the help they need in addition to simply feeling safe enough to file a report. Our average lower enlisted may not feel like they hold the power of change if they stop their fellow peers over the words they speak, but if they know right from wrong maybe one day they will. Until that time may they never hold their peace and get the help they need after any sexual assault incident they may experience.
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