SHARP coordinator shares assault story
April 11, 2013
FORT SILL, Okla. (April 11, 2013) -- Approximately 15 years ago, a private first class in the Army worked in a dining facility here.
She was a 26 year-old food service specialist and was full of vigor and promise.
While serving in the DFAC, she developed bonds with her fellow-enlisted Soldiers, some of which reached beyond the boundaries of the work environment.
At some point, she began to date a staff sergeant who was also her section sergeant. The relationship went well, and she received a few perks as a result of it. According to her, a staff sergeant in those days was like command sergeant major.
Life for the young Soldier was golden; she was sitting on top of the world.
Little did she know, that world would soon come crashing down on her because of a single-selfish act by the Soldier whom she put her trust in.
After a heated argument, she packed the items he left at her home and told him that he was not welcome in her home or life.
Her message was clear and concise; however, he did not take it lightly. He became enraged and forced his way into her home, wrestled her down to the bed and told her that she was not going to leave him.
What he did next triggered a chain reaction that would cause her to wage a 14-year, ongoing-internal battle.
This true story of an anonymous Soldier is prevalent in the Army; it is a reality that command teams around the world and here have been trying to eradicate for years.
Members of sexual harassment/assault response and prevention teams work for countless hours, year around in an effort to try and prevent incidents of sexual assault and harassment and help those who become victims of the malicious-criminal acts.
April has been deemed National Sexual Assault Awareness Month and members of SHARP teams here are making a full pledged counter attack on sexual assault and harassment.
In keeping with that pledge, the 75th Fires Brigade conducted Army-mandated SHARP training April 3 at the Fort Sill Conference Center.
There, they learned the harsh and uncomfortable reality of how sexual assaults and harassment affects not only a unit and its mission, but more importantly, the victim.
As the training began, the chatter in the room came to a halt as the brigade's sexual assault response coordinator, Sgt. 1st Class Sherri Crowder, introduced herself and her assistant instructors to the Soldiers in the audience.
Afterward, she played an uncensored sound clip of a 911 call made by a woman who was sexually assaulted by an intruder at her home.
"This is real," Crowder continuously reminded the visibly awestruck Soldiers. "Welcome to my world. You are just at the threshold and some of y'all can't handle it."
Crowder said the Army has adapted its method of reaching out to Soldiers concerning SHARP-related issues from targeting potential victims to targeting people who could prevent the offense from happening -- the offender as well as the bystander.
She said leaders used to gather the female Soldiers together for an additional safety brief and admonish them to not dress too revealing and not act in a way that would bring uninvited attention to them. "If you had a vehicle that you cleaned everyday and made it look good," she said, "did you spend all of that time cleaning it up for someone to steal it?"
The room remained relatively silent.
"If a person fixes themselves up and makes them look good, did they make themselves look nice as an excuse for someone to sexually assault them?"
The Soldiers unanimously replied, no.
Crowder explained that when a person decides to sexually assault someone, they are taking something from someone that doesn't belong to them. Just like the car, a person's appearance and appeal does not give consent to an individual to take what doesn't belong to them.
She challenged the Soldiers, regardless of their rank, to set the example as a leader by using the Army's new targeting method. She encouraged the Soldiers to help stop sexual assaults and harassment by keeping an eye on individuals around them and taking action if they are in compromising situations.
"If you are around and you see something going on but you do nothing about it," said Crowder, "you are just as guilty!
"I hope for the day my job will be furloughed," she said. "I want my job to go away because sexual assaults and harassment in the Army have gone away."