By Sara E. Martin, Army Flier Staff WriterApril 2, 2014
FORT RUCKER, Ala. (April 2, 2014) -- Sometimes people inadvertently do something that is not acceptable, and other times they purposefully harm others, but no matter what the case, the Sexual Harassment Assault Response and Prevention program aims to eliminate sexual harassment and assault from the Army.
The Army defines sexual harassment as a form of gender discrimination. It includes unwelcome sexual advances, request for sexual favors and other physical or verbal conduct of a sexual nature.
Sexual assault is intentional sexual contact that is characterized by use of force, threats, intimidation or abuse of authority when the victim does not, or cannot, consent.
Sgt. 1st Class Lance Osborne, U.S. Army Aviation Center of Excellence and Fort Rucker Sexual Harassment/Assault Prevention and Response Program, or SHARP, program manager, said that Fort Rucker is doing its best to ensure the safety of Soldiers by helping prevent sexual harassment and assault with the ultimate goal of eliminating it by enforcing a zero-tolerance policy.
"This is not always an uplifting topic to address with Soldiers, but we hope to create awareness in a way that is engaging," he said. "It is important for people to know what their recourses are because one day you may encounter someone who is in need and you will have that information at-the-ready for them."
Sexual harassment and assault is something that is being dealt with on a national scale, with Army leaders near and far taking the stand to stop the behavior.
"This April, the Department observes the 10th annual Sexual Assault Awareness Month with the theme 'Live Our Values: Step Up to Stop Sexual Assault,'" a memorandum from the Under Secretary of Defense reads. "Sexual assault is a crime and can only be stopped when everyone understands we all have a role in combating it.
"The Department does not tolerate, condone, or ignore sexual assault," it continues. "We must 'Live Our Values' everyday, all year long and 'Step Up' by intervening when appropriate, reporting crimes, and supporting victims."
Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel said that cultural change is needed Armywide -- where every service member is treated with dignity and respect, where all allegations of inappropriate behavior are treated with seriousness, where victims' privacy is protected, where bystanders are motivated to intervene, and where offenders know that they will be held accountable by strong and effective systems of justice.
Most people can agree that sexual assault and harassment disrupts a cohesive work environment and that the Army cannot, should not, and will not operate under those conditions.
"An incident of sexual harassment or sexual assault can affect the cohesion of a unit because, in many cases, both the victim and offender share friends and coworkers. Often, these people take the side of one. It divides the unit," said Osborne. "It is not conducive to have these types of problems in a unit. The Army is strong because we trust each other to have each other's back. How can you focus on the mission at hand or trust that your buddy will look out for you on the battlefield when you're thinking about how that buddy has sexually harassed, or worst, assaulted you or someone you know."
Sometimes people come into the Army with bad habits and think that certain remarks or gestures are normal behavior, said Osborne. So, now leaders are trying to change that culture.
"Our actions reinforce behaviors. So, we need to reinforce our standards and values to emphasize the importance of social courage because that will strengthen our culture. Everyone, at every level of leadership, must help establish a climate of dignity, respect and trust."
So, to help spread the word on the topic, SHARP, throughout the month of April, a table will be set up at the post exchange, where people can get information and freebies. During lunch breaks, victim advocates will man the booth to answer questions.
Other events held to bring awareness is a Sexual Assault and Child Abuse Awareness Run hosted by Air Traffic Services Command and the 164th Theatre Airfield Operations Group.
"Soldiers, families, friends and pets are all asked to join in the fun by wearing fun colors and a set of high heels for the high heel dash during the fun run, walk and ride tribute, April 1, at 6 a.m., across from the Fort Rucker Post Office between Seventh Street and Andrews Avenue," said Osborne.
There will also be a lecture by Lt. Col. Celia FlorCruz about the newly created Better Empowered Soldiers Today program that was modeled after her Sister's in Arms program, April 16.
The lectures focus on Soldiership, such as the impact of appearance, dress and conduct, on shaping a SHARP-safe environment, barracks segregation, women's sense of being alienated from their brother Soldiers, and the isolation of women Soldiers.
There will be a self-defense workshop at Fortenberry-Colton Physical Fitness Center, April 17, at 4:30 p.m., that is open to all active duty Soldiers, retired Soldiers, DOD employees and their family members, at no charge. Participants will learn about personal protection, environmental awareness and practical self-defense techniques.
Command Sgt. Maj. Eric Thom, Fort Rucker's newly appointed Aviation Branch senior enlisted adviser, said that this year's SHARP slogans state Soldiers must live their values every day and step up by intervening, and that as a Soldier, father, mother, brother, sister or friend, he hopes people are already doing that. And if not, "It's time to step up."