Army SARC takes SHARP to the community
April 4, 2014
SCOTT AIR FORCE BASE, Ill. -- The call came from the Oak Island, N.C., police department about someone who had been out of the military for more than 20 years. During an interview with the individual on an unrelated subject, the police interviewers learned that the woman, who was destitute, had been sexually assaulted while in the military and had never received any kind of assistance for the assault.
"When I got the call, all I thought was, 'This is a veteran, so we need to help,'" recounted Capt. Bryan Anderson, the Sexual Assault Response Coordinator, or SARC in Army jargon, for 596th Transportation Brigade in Sunny Point, N.C., a subordinate command of Military Surface Deployment and Distribution Command at Scott Air Force Base, Ill. "We started thinking outside the box and thought to ourselves, 'What can the VA (Veteran's Affairs) provide; what can the local rape crisis center provide, the clergy?' We just streamlined the process for the police department by giving them the contact information, notifying those contacts in advance, and telling the police to let us know if we can assist in any more situations.
"We're standing by to help and we want to be part of the process for healing," Anderson said, referring to himself and Jennifer Criswell, the victim advocate at the brigade.
As the SARC, Anderson is responsible for spearheading the U.S. Army's Sexual Harassment/Assault Response and Prevention efforts at the brigade, and its subordinate units in Concord, Calif., and Jacksonville, Fla. However, with fewer than 20 military members amongst the three locations, Anderson looked for a way to do more; not just for those military members, but also for the family members, the Department of Army civilians and the reservists who are part of the command, as well as veterans who may not fall into any of those categories.
"Jennifer and I tried to think of ways we could better affect and make an impact in today's society with the information we have on sexual assault and harassment, so we started creating relationships with local agencies -- finding out what they're doing, finding out trends, getting the most up to date information they have," said Anderson. He and Criswell have reached out to three hospitals, a rape crisis center, 27 law enforcement agencies, two district attorneys, and the veterans' affairs office. They have also reached out to resources located about two and a half hours away at Ft. Bragg, N.C., including the Army's Criminal Investigation Command at Ft. Bragg, the Womack Army Medical Center, and the Department of Defense [Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners] representative, Kelly Taylor."
Anderson and Criswell have also become sitting members of the newly formed Cape Fear Rapid Response Team board comprising representatives from the U.S. attorney's and district attorney's office, the sheriff's office as well as local law enforcement agencies and various support services such as emergency sheltering centers, the hospitals, Salvation Army, and the rape crisis center. The members of the board have joined in an effort to offer services in the most direct way to victims and families. In addition to outreach, Anderson has also organized training by Taylor on the DOD sexual assault forensic evidence kit for 15 civilian nurses in the counties surrounding Sunny Point.
"They loved it," said Anderson about the training. "We loved it. It enhanced our relationship with our civilian employees, showing that we want to be here for them, in addition to our military members. We know the civilian medical professionals in the community will be the ones to see them first and we are here to support them. They hospitals know that if they should receive a victim of sexual assault who is affiliated with the Department of Defense or the Department of Army, we will respond and put the victim in touch with the [Sexual Assault Prevention and Response office] or SHARP office."
While helping victims is a key component of the Army's SHARP program, Anderson is hoping to make an impact to stop sexual assault or harassment before it can begin.
"The basis of the (SHARP) program is meant to effect a cultural change, so if you can begin that change at the point of entry to the military, or even before, so that it becomes a part of your personal culture, how much better is that?" said Anderson. "So we are creating an outreach program to reach out to the Junior ROTC programs in the high schools to disseminate information about SHARP -- to reinforce to them that sexual harassment and sexual assault are not tolerated within the military and should not be tolerated in their schools." The first outreach visit is scheduled for the month of April, in conjunction with Sexual Assault Awareness Month. Anderson knows that the students already hear this message from their JROTC instructors, "but, if it comes from the active duty, it might make a difference."
A designated member of the Military Police corps, Anderson volunteered to be the SARC for the brigade, a position typically held by a major, and acknowledges the level of responsibility he feels accompanies the job.
"Sexual assault has affected me personally and professionally," Anderson said. "Trying to help others so that it doesn't happen to them is pretty darned important to me. And if it does happen to them, I want to give them everything they need to recover; to help ensure their sense of self-worth is not diminished at all."
The next step for Anderson was to help guide the brigade's subordinate units, the 832nd and 834th Transportation Battalions, to implement programs similar to his. He has provided templates of his outreach plans, as well as copies of memorandums of understanding and agreement, and standard operating procedures he and Jennifer have created. He has also shared his program through his outreach with Ft. Bragg and the 18th Airborne Corps SARC office. Sharing the information is the only way Anderson can help achieve what he would call success in his efforts.
"How I measure success on a personal level is when a Soldier, a family member, a Department of the Army civilian comes up to me and says ,'You gave me information I can use,'" said Anderson. "I pray that we are going to have an impact on individuals and their culture to make a change for what we know is right; that others will not only know and understand what is right as well, but do what is right."
And that military veteran the police called about?
"As far as I know, she has gotten into a recovery program," Anderson said.