SHARP program provides peer to peer training
September 5, 2013
JOINT BASE LEWIS McCHORD, Wash. --Thirty two junior officers and junior enlisted Soldiers assigned to the 7th Infantry Division attended a 40- hour peer to peer Sexual Harassment/Assault Response Prevention course Aug. 26-29 on Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash.
The course is similar to Sexual Assault Response Coordinators and Victims Advocacy training and a first at JBLM.
Designed by Maj. Gen. Stephen Lanza, commanding general, 7th Infantry Division, the goal of the program is to enhance and support the SHARP program. It matches victims with a battle buddy they can interact with when they don't feel comfortable talking with someone senior in rank. Additionally, the peer to peer concept will help victims to gain a better understanding for any SHARP inquiries or concerns.
"When Maj. Gen. Lanza stood up the 7th Inf. Div., he began to have SHARP panels," said Master Sgt. Carol Chapman, SHARP program manager, 7th Inf. Div. "Right after his first 30 days he called for 15-30 Soldiers of all ranks to find out what they know about SHARP and what he can do to make the program better."
Based on sensing sessions and concerns within the 7th Inf. Div., Soldiers identified a lack of comfortability confiding in seniors. They asked for peers who are SHARP educated.
"A peer will be someone the individual could speak comfortably with, similar in rank to the victim, and wouldn't have to be in the same company or platoon," said Chapman. "Victims should consider this person on their level, and can understand what they are going through."
"They will have a peer that is trained to listen, guide them to the right resources, and report in the correct manner restricted or non-restricted," said Lt. Col. Celia FlorCruz, SHARP program manager, 7th Inf. Div.
Throughout the week Soldiers learned the history and statistics of sexual assault in the Army, their responsibilities and expectations.
"This class allows us to be a positive cure that is going to attack the infection of this negative issue of sexual harassment and assault," said Spc. Karl Ottesen, health care specialist, 2nd Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division. "I think this is an outstanding start, the Army is trying to change its cultural and the best way is start at the base with the lower enlisted."
"We're kind of bringing it (sexual assault) out of the dark," said FlorCruz. "We haven't always been good at talking about these issues before so by providing peer to peer training weare shedding some light on the subject."
The purpose of the course is to identify the right individuals to serve as SHARP specialists that can provide commanders with feedback.
"Historically commanders had to rely only on their SARC," said FlorCruz. "What we are trying to do is provide the commanders with more tools, more firepower to get at this target which is sexual assault affecting our operations."
The peer to peer program is one method that can help commanders provide an open, safe climate within their units. This provides additional resources for victims and helps to increase education within the unit.
"The goal of the program is to have a minimum of two peer representatives in each battalion. As the peer program grows and expands each company will eventually have their two or however many the commander sees fit," said Chapman.
"Maj. Gen. Lanza's intention is to put more power and understanding down at the lowest level," said FlorCruz. "You shouldn't have to rely on one or two subject matter experts, this is a Soldiers skill."
Although in its infancy, the peer to peer program is set to debut Army wide in 2014.