By Wallace McBride, Fort Jackson LeaderAugust 26, 2013
FORT JACKSON, S.C. -- Changes are in store for programs used on Fort Jackson to combat sexual assault and harassment within the ranks. The Army's Sexual Harassment/Assault Response and Prevention program is designed as a proactive initiative to prevent sexual harassment and sexual assaults. The post's SHARP initiative will be seeing a few improvements in coming weeks, said Master Sgt. Dietra Woods, Fort Jackson's Equal Opportunity Program manager.
"The program is based on protecting the victim and making sure the chain of command is aware of what's going on," Woods said. The changes being implemented to the installation's SHARP initiative are designed to enhance existing policies, she said.
New SHARP hotlines are being installed at all Basic Combat Training units. Woods said the new telephone lines are expected to be completed by the end of September, and will provide more than 300 locations for Soldiers to report misconduct to victim advocates.
The post is also relocating the Equal Opportunity/SHARP office from its present location on Sumter Street to a more private address on the corner of Sumter and Gregg streets. The location also provides easier access to chaplains, Woods said.
"We're moving our building across from the Inspector General, so people will be able to get help from them, if it's that type of issue," Woods said. Part of the plan is to better involve command with sexual assault and harassment issues, which will also benefit from having the Inspector General closer to SHARP offices.
The role of the Inspector General is to determine and report urgent issues on post.
The office will be relocating the week of Sept. 3, she said. These changes arrive as the Pentagon unveils new initiatives to curb sexual assault and tackle what Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel describes as a "stain" on the honor of men and women serving in the armed forces. Last week, Hagel announced a range of initiatives to improve victim support, strengthen pretrial investigations, enhance oversight, and make prevention and response efforts more consistent across the military services.
Among the other sexual assault and harassment initiatives Hagel announced are the creation of a legal advocacy program in each military service that will provide legal representation for sexual assault victims; ensuring that pretrial investigative hearings of sexual assault-related charges are conducted by judge advocates general officers; providing commanders with options to reassign or transfer people accused of sexual assault; and developing and proposing changes to the Manual for Courts-Martial that would allow victims to give input during the sentencing phase of courts martial.
"Fort Jackson has always been ahead of what everyone else is directing, so we're almost already there," Woods said of implementing many of these new programs. "We're just making sure it's honed better and making sure we're within compliance."
Woods said the goal of these changes is to further prevent sexual assault and harassment on Fort Jackson.
"We want personnel to be satisfied and assured that, as long as you ask for help, that we're there to help them," she said.