FORT SILL, Okla. -- Fort Sill is breaking new ground on the attack against sexual harassment and sexual assault. Combining former programs, the new Sexual Harassment/Assault Response and Prevention (SHARP) Program focuses on stopping a situation before there is ever a victim. The program's motto is simple: I. A.M. Strong, which stands for Intervene, Act, Motivate.

"We're focusing on the problem and the problem mostly lies with the bystanders. They can intervene. They see it, they can go ahead and act on it," said Sgt. 1st Class John Raymer, Fort Sill Equal Opportunity noncommissioned officer.

According to Raymer, Fort Sill has four to 10 reported cases of sexual assault a month. He said the Army's goal is to have the number of reported cases and the actual number of sexual assault crimes meet.

"At that point that's when we know we have achieved cultural change within the Army. And we can work to reduce it," said Raymer.

Right now SHARP training is taught by mobile training teams, but Raymer and others said they are ready to fully implement the program when the Army says 'go.'

So far, all of the units on post have been through the training, and Raymer said there are more than 200 SHARP certified personnel on Fort Sill.

Already, the SHARP Program has created a change. "We actually had an incident where we had bystander intervention," said

Raymer. "It was over a four-day weekend and when they came back to work they went to their first sergeant and told them what happened and that's our goal right there is to get the bystanders to intervene, to get the victim out of the situation so they don't actually become a victim. Or to talk to the alleged perpetrator and try to get them to realize, this isn't what you want to do. This shouldn't have happened."

Raymer said the reason some crimes go unreported is because the victims will internalize the situation and tend to blame themselves. He said men are even more likely to not report it because they may question their masculinity.

"It isn't just females who are assaulted or harassed, it happens to males," said Raymer. "I had a male Soldier who was drinking in the barracks with some others. They were all just having a good time and another male sexually assaulted him. At first he didn't want to come forward. It took him about three weeks or so to actually come forward."

To retell the story of an attack is hard enough. The process prior to SHARP may have made it a little more difficult on the victim because the office for sexual harassment cases and sexual assault cases were different. Having to point someone into another office afterwards may have caused more frustration and damage on the person.

"[Gen. George Casey Jr., former Army Chief of Staff] realized there's a fine line between sexual harassment and sexual assault. He determined the two needed to be brought together so we can take care of the victim properly and make sure we don't re-victimize them," said Raymer.

SHARP is ensuring each unit has a certified person Soldiers can turn to. The SHARP certified Soldier is taught exactly how to handle the situation by first tagging along with a victim advocate case to fully understand the reporting options and paper work and also the care options for people who come forward. Once they are familiarized, the victim advocate will let the SHARP certified Soldier actually handle a case while they watch and make sure it is handled properly.

The main focus of the program is for Soldiers to take care of other Soldiers. Watching out for signs that someone is being harassed or making sure their battle buddy is not left in a situation where they can be assaulted can go a long way to combating the problem.

"I've been in the Equal Opportunity field since 2003, and I've seen it and I've heard it all," said

Raymer. "They say I was there. It didn't look right, but they looked like they were having a good time so I didn't say anything. That's why we're focusing on the bystanders."

Page last updated Thu July 14th, 2011 at 00:00