By Libby HoweJuly 2, 2014
WASHINGTON (Army News Service, July 1, 2014) -- The Army's Sexual Harassment/Assault Response and Prevention program aims to synchronize and professionalize victim advocacy services by establishing SHARP Resource Centers on military installations across the globe.
The Army intends to launch 11 pilot SHARP Resource Centers within the coming months, using the center already at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington, as a model to analyze the effectiveness and assess costs needed to provide SHARP services in centers on other military installations.
SHARP Resource Centers will "bring together all of the response system proponents in the Army into one single location," said Lt. Col. Geoff Catlett, with the Army G-1 office.
The centers, Catlett said, will act as a "one-stop" consolidation of services. "You'll have lawyers, investigators, medical personnel, and advocates all working together as a community of practice in order to support each other professionally."
SHARP Resource Centers will also house Sexual Assault Response Teams. Each SART consists of four primary responders, including victim advocates from the military community's SHARP programs, medical providers from the military treatment facility, criminal investigators from the supporting Criminal Investigation Division, and military prosecutors from the supporting Staff Judge Advocate offices.
"Now you have one place to go where all [these resources] are brought together. They get a very seasoned, professional team to support them and they also don't have to go to a half dozen locations across the installation," said Catlett, of how the SHARP Resource Centers ease the process for victims. "Having that professional team all in one place working together is synchronizing our efforts to professionalize and expedite our response to victims."
Catlett expressed the Army's excitement about the new model of response systems.
"If we, in any way, shape, or form, fail people who are dealing with this experience, we are failing as leaders across the Army. We just can't accept that," he said. "You can't legislate your way out of this problem; you can't regulate your way out of this problem; you can only lead your way out of this problem."
The program is on schedule to launch 11 pilot SHARP Resource Centers, in addition to the one on Joint Base Lewis-McChord, after the publication of the SHARP-RC "Tool Kit" later this month.
These pilots will operate on installations such as Fort Hood, Texas; Fort Campbell, Kentucky; Schofield Barracks, Hawai; Camp Arifjan, Kuwait; and seven other installations through February 2015. At that point, an assessment of effectiveness and recommendations for additional implementation will be presented to the chief of staff of the Army.
"What we're trying to do is put the systems in place and provide the tools to commanders, in order to change the culture and create an Army where everyone is treated with dignity and respect," Catlett said. "If the Army can't do it, then nobody can do it."
The origins of the SHARP program date back to 2008, when the Army's leadership decided to focus prevention efforts on eliminating the behaviors that create an environment conducive to sexual assault.
Today's SHARP program aligns with the Department of Defense Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Strategy and the Strategic Direction to the Joint Force on Sexual Assault Prevention and Response. Implementation of SHARP follows the five imperatives set forth by the chief of staff of the Army.
These imperatives focus on preventing offenders from committing crimes; reporting every allegation and ensuring it is professionally investigated; creating a positive climate and an environment of trust and respect; holding every individual, unit, organization and commander accountable for their actions; and maintaining a fully engaged chain of command.
Despite fiscal hardships, SHARP continues to expand.
"As we're reducing the Army staff due to budget constraints, this program is actually expanding," said Catlett.
"Our effort right now is about, in the simplest terms possible, professionalizing the force," he said. "We have world-class professional investigators, prosecutors, and medical personnel." Now, work is being done to bring advocacy services, victim advocates, and sexual assault response coordinators to the same level of professionalism.
(For more information about the Army SHARP Program, go to www.preventsexualassault.army.mil)