Advocates are available 24/7 to assist those impacted by sexual assault

SCHOFIELD BARRACKS, Hawaii (Feb. 21, 2014) -- The unimaginable has happened; you?'ve been sexually assaulted.

Amongst the feelings of shock, disbelief and anger you may be experiencing, there?'s confusion. What do you do now?

Call the new hotline for Sexual Harassment and Assault Response and Prevention (SHARP) at 655-9474 to connect with a victim advocate.

Advocates are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, to assist victims; explain their reporting options; offer referrals to counseling services; help with safety planning; provide legal, counseling and medical resources; and accompany personnel to medical and legal appointments.

?"The new hotline provides a more streamlined approach for individuals who want to make a report and limits the number of people involved, allowing more privacy for the victim," said Adrienne Howe; Sexual Assault Response Coordinator (SARC); Army Community Service (ACS); Directorate of Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation; U.S. Army Garrison-Hawaii.

The SHARP line provides advocacy services to sexual assault victims, who are service or family members over the age of 18, when the offender is not a spouse or intimate partner.

Created as a separate venue, the SHARP hotline directly connects people who?'ve been sexually assaulted with representatives specifically trained to provide support. Advocates manning the SHARP line are certified by the Department of Defense through the National Organization Victim Assistance every two years, according to Howe.

If the victim is not older than 18 or if the attacker is a spouse or partner, the SAFE hotline at 624-SAFE (7233) is also available. ACS?'s Family Advocacy Program monitors this hotline, 24/7, and also assists with domestic violence situations.

?"Across the Army, the prevention of sexual harassment and assault is a top priority," said Maj. Gen. Kurt Fuller, senior mission commander for Army forces in Hawaii, during an informational video that is shown to all incoming Soldiers and families. ?"Sexual assault is a crime and is incompatible with our Army values."

?"The SHARP program, in collaboration with the Army?'s ?'I. A.M. STRONG?' campaign, charges all Soldiers, civilians and family members to do their part in preventing and reporting sexual assault," said Col. Daniel Whitney, commander, USAG-HI, in the same informational video. ?"Sexual harassment and assault violate a person?'s trust and sense of safety."

I. A.M. STRONG stands for intervene, act and motivate, and emphasizes that it?'s everyone?'s responsibility to prevent sexual assault and harassment. The program aims to increase confidence that survivors will be cared for and protected without stigma or repercussions, that all allegations will be properly investigated, and that command will take appropriate action based on investigations and hold everyone accountable for their behavior, actions and inactions.

The SHARP hotline is the first step in providing this important support for victims and ensuring allegations are reported.

SHARP representatives, SARCs and victim advocates (VA) from the garrison and military units in Hawaii have joined together to increase awareness of the new hotline and the I. A.M. Strong campaign. They?'ve briefed Spouse Information Meetings in both the north and south communities, and handed out flyers at Class 6 stores and Shoppettes on post.

Sexual assault can be reported at any time; however, reporting the incident within 72 hours preserves forensic evidence and aids the investigation.

Restricted = Confidential. When reporting a sexual assault using the restricted option, a victim has access to medical care, counseling and victim advocacy services without the incident being reported to law enforcement or a military command. Information is kept confidential, and an investigation is not conducted.

Contact a SARC, VA, health care personnel or chaplain for assistance or to report a sexual assault using the restricted option.

Unrestricted = Investigation. If a victim decides to use the unrestricted option when reporting an incident, the victim has access to medical care, counseling and victim advocacy services. The incident is reported to law enforcement and the military chain of command of those who are involved. An official investigation is initiated.

Incidents reported to law enforcement (military or civilian police) automatically instigate an unrestricted investigation.

What do I do now?
If you?'ve been sexually assaulted:
•Go to a safe location.
•If you require immediate emergency assistance, call the Military Police. If not, call the SHARP hotline.
•Preserve all evidence of the assault. Don?'t bathe, wash your hands or brush your teeth.
•Don?'t clean, move or remove anything from the crime scene.
•Seek medical care as soon as possible. Ask health care personnel to conduct a medical forensic exam. If you suspect you?'ve been drugged, ask for a urine sample.
•Record all the details about the assault and your assailant.