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The United States Army is comprised of both male and female soldiers and requires all soldiers to be educated about sexual assault annually. It’s often overlooked at how much it needs to be addressed. My experience with SHARP in my organization has allowed me to understand the program dynamics and the unique challenges that it faces in the society of civilians that work around soldiers are not held to the same standards. This paper focuses on some of the challenges Army wide as well as within my work place. I’ve observed and have some specific recommendations that I believe can better the system and decrease SHARP incidents.
The Army Sexual Harassment and Assault Response and Prevention was implemented in 2012, or better known to soldiers and civilians as “SHARP”. The Department of Defense reported to being on a constant up and down roller coaster. Sexual harassment and sexual assault are fundamental breaches of the Army Ethic and violate the expectations that DA Civilians and Soldiers treat everyone with dignity and respect. 20,500 service members across all the branches of the military had reported cases of sexual assault in fiscal year 2018. Across all branches approximately 7,500 males and 13,000 females reported those cases in 2018. These numbers only show that although the Army is taking to steps to reduce sexual assault and sexual harassment however; the Army is still facing several challenges, and something must change.
The organization that I work in is made up of 96% civilians. Of that the main perpetrators of SHARP offenses are men between the ages of 40 and 60 years of age. That leads to the question is there a generation gap in communication or is it an issue with the policy not being stickily enforced compared to a soldier? Soldiers are held accountable by UCMJ as well as civil legal action. A communication misunderstanding between generations can lead to some big issues. The way young people of any generation communicate with each typically leaves older generations scratching their heads and not understanding what they did wrong. This is where leaders both civilians and soldiers can ask questions and learn from the younger generation. ‘It’s a matter of policing up each other,’ she said. ‘That’s what we’ve got to get comfortable with from the bottom up to the top down, the policing up of one another. If we start policing one another up, then incidents would drop. And so that’s a major key. We want the understanding and the good behaviors to spread. We want everybody to be comfortable enough to say, ‘Hey, stop that. That’s not right.”
There are civilians that work in multiple arsenals and depots that are government owned contractor operated facilities and they feel that the military presence is minimal so therefore they don’t feel like they fall under the military policies. The sexual harassment policy applies to all DA Civilians while they are on duty, on government property, or involvement in a job-related activity (2017). In my organization civilians disagree that they should adhere to the SHARP policy and do not feel they need to attend and maintain the mandatory SHARP training. Policies need to uphold and strictly enforced across the board. For Civilians restricted reporting should be brought back like they were in the one-year pilot program the Army had in 2017.
When an individual does research on the Sexual Harassment/Assault Response and prevention “SHARP” program there is an overwhelming amount of information comes up. There are DOD Policies, DA policies, AR-600-20 and numerous memorandums signed by several people. All the information is beneficial however, it’s not all in one location, which in hand can make it difficult to maintain the most accurate and updated information. I know this first hand by doing research for my own paper for this Master Leaders Course. The United States Air Force has a standard and all information on their sexual assault and sexual harassment policies. At its location you can find the Air Forces policy, DOD, annual reports as well as other reports. Why doesn’t the Army have a centralized location for all its policies, memorandums and reports. There has been a document sent to legislation to make these policies all in one but with every new senior elected military member and legislatures this document keeps being put on the back burner. The sad truth is that these elected members don’t care and only seem to care when sexual assault and sexual harassment becomes a problem. When assault case numbers start to increase, and the media and reports get published only then do those members want to change their stance. Therefore, the SHARP/SHRC representatives and leadership need to push down to make it a top priority.
To recap, the Army’s SHARP program is effective to a certain point. The purpose of the program is cultural change to improve unit and organizational readiness. The military was designed to defend The United States of America. For the mission to be successful, leaders need to ensure that all those who serve under them are maintaining good order and discipline that are essential to accomplishing the mission. Sexual assault is a very real and recognized problem, both in the military and in civilian life, it can break the trust of individuals which leads to ineffectiveness and not allowing the military to mission ready.
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