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Why do cases of sexual harassment and sexual assault continue to take place in the Army, despite all the training and education that takes place? You have seen it in every corner, every wall and even on restroom mirrors. I. A.M STRONG posters, figurines, and banners shoved down your throat at every possible avenue. When did this start? On February 8, 2004, the acting secretary of the Army established task forces to try combat the tsunami-like waves of sexual assault issues plaguing the U.S Army. Despite the Army doubling its efforts to fight sexual assault related crimes, it seems as if SHARP is fighting a losing battle. According to Military Times, sexual assault numbers have risen to 5.8 percent from 4.4 percent in 2016. SHARP fails to uproot the foundation of the problem, which is addressing the right demographic, immaturity of the drinking culture and taking responsibility for each soldier’s well-being.
Firstly, why does sexual assault occur? Simple answer, undisciplined human beings. SHARP is supposed to serve as a bridge between victims and justice. Yet why have the reported number of sexual assault crimes hardly gone up in the last 2 years? While sexual assault criminals run rampant in green. According to USA today in May 2019, sexual assault percentages increased about 34 percent from 2016. Out of this 34 percent, 62 percent of these incidents involved alcohol. Stopping alcohol use is not the solution, constantly briefing the lower enlisted about not drinking is not the solution. The solution is to create/recruit Soldiers who can be responsible for their own actions. The solution is to create respected NCOs, who turn around and teach Soldiers self-control and discipline to stay above the “drinking culture”. Fix yourself before fixing others.
That said, Army’s current approach to training may be reducing the risk of sexual assault and harassment by simply exposing the issue for all to see. It is also very beneficial to have all the reporting options and personnel available. Still, overly bearing briefs and mandatory fun activities are not engaging the Soldiers. Having every Soldier be accountable for themselves instead of having a SSG assigned to the barracks for “watch” every weekend is the first step to building an Army that can think for itself.
Consequently, to end sexual violence in the military is just an absurd expectation. There are too many variables and different cultures, people, and ideas for the Army to expect zero sexually related criminal statistics. A perfect organization is non-existential. The Army will not be the first. The SHARP program does what it can to raise awareness in order to null ignorance as an excuse for soldiers. That coupled with slow and deliberate cultural change starting from the roots of the Army will be a step in the right direction. Unrealistic goals are not the answer.
In summation, SHARP is not targeting the root cause of the problem, immaturity of the drinking culture and taking responsibility for each Soldiers well-being. Sexual assault crimes stay on an upwards trend while the Army fosters a culture that avoids self-responsibility and appraises drinking. Only slow, methodical creation of self-disciplined leaders will result in a decline of these numbers. I do not think we will ever be able to completely stomp the fire of sexual crimes in the Army but we can certainly contain it.
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