FORT BELVOIR, Va. (June 21) -- Soldiers and Department of Defense civilians in the Military District of Washington received training on sexual harassment and sexual assault at the Fort Belvoir National Guard Center June 4-15.

The training, which lasted 80 hours over a two-week period, is part of the Army's 2012 Sexual Harassment/Assault Prevention and Response Program. The purpose of the training is to arm junior and senior military leaders and civilians with the knowledge and skills to assist victims of such crimes, and to educate the Soldier and civilian workforce on prevention, processes, and procedures for reporting such incidents.

The Military District of Washington and Fort Belvoir's Equal Employment Opportunity Office sponsored the training.

Understanding the challenges the Army faces in trying to combat Sexual Harassment and assault is the most important piece of information the students left with, according to Carey Williams EEO training manager, mediator and counselor.

"They recognize that it is going to take a personal and strong commitment from everyone, not just leaders, to build a culture of trust and respect for all," said Williams.

Students learned to recognize examples of sexual harassment and assault during the training. Examples include -- verbal and non-verbal sexual harassment, the printed word which is language used in emails, the music a person plays in the office or their posture. The way a person looks at another person of the opposite sex can be considered a form of non-verbal sexual harassment if it makes the other person uncomfortable.

Defining the culture of sexual harassment was eye-opening to Master Sgt. Brian Jones, Washington D.C. National Guard, Officer Candidate School, 260 Regiment Platoon Trainer, since most of the types of harassment can be regularly viewed on TV shows as entertainment.

"Sexual harassment is just a culture of funny, sexy jokes that we see in TV shows," Jones said. "Some of it is very subconscious that you are not aware of it. It really made us all aware of what we do in the workplace."

Jones works with second lieutenants who are about to gain a commission. He said he is looking forward to introducing realistic training and talking about the subtle acts most people ignore that qualify as harrassment.

"The roots really start in the climate of your unit which has nothing to do with the culture of your unit," said Jones. "It's identifying how we split each other apart based on our sex. It's the actual violent rape case, the sexual assault case, the blatant acts of sexual harassment, or crude talk that gets a lot of attention. But, it's spotting and learning to identify the seeds of sexual harassment and that starts with small attitudes and that's what this training is really all about."

Giving his Soldiers the ability to identify sexual harassment is also important to Jones because it can prevent sexual assault from taking place in the future.

"You may think it's just a comment, but that makes it so much easier for another person to harass a Soldier or take advantage of a fellow Soldier who's drunk," said Jones. "That's where it leads to assault."

The training also informed the students of how a person can intervene to stop harassment. This information is important to Sara Herrera, Army Community Service Family Advocacy Program Victim Advocate at Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall, since she did not know previously.

"If a person wants to approach someone directly and letting them know their conversation makes them feel uncomfortable that is one option," said Herrera. "They can also file a formal complaint with their commander or supervisor."

Informal complaints like approaching a harasser can make the person aware of their behavior and cause that person to be more self-conscious of how they speak to a coworker of the opposite sex.

It also causes harassers to stick out more to the rest of the workforce, according to Jones.

"The more free our units are of this kind of behavior, the more it will force a person who is prone to harassing someone to stick out more," said Jones.

For more information on SHARP, and training opportunities, contact Fort Belvoir's EEO training manager Carey Williams at (703) 805-5387.

Page last updated Thu June 21st, 2012 at 00:00