By Mark Tate, USASOC Public AffairsAugust 8, 2014
FORT BRAGG, N.C. (USASOC News Service, Aug. 8, 2014) - When the U.S. Army's Sexual Harassment/Assault Response and Prevention (SHARP) program started in 2008, the focus was on building confidence throughout the service community to report sexual harassment and assault.
Since that time, the program has proven to be successful as the number of reported cases increased. Now the next phase in the fight against sexual assault is underway - prevention.
During a three-day Mentors in Violence Prevention (MVP) training program on Fort Bragg, Aug. 5-7, unit SHARP mentors and victim advocates from across the Special Forces Community were taught the new approach. "People are getting aware of the program and are getting more confident in it," said Sgt. 1st Class Stephen Blackburn, USASOC Equal Opportunity Office. "We spent a lot of time developing the program for reporting sexual assault.?We are now seeing a lot more reporting which means the program is working.?Now we are looking to curb the violence before it starts."
During the training program, attendees were taught what prevention messages were needed in the next phase of the program.
"This program is about prevention and not reaction," said Sgt. 1st Class Joshua Klickman, U.S. Army Special Forces Command's Equal Opportunity Advisor and Sexual Assault Response Coordinator. "It is about violence prevention; how to respond to an environment that could lead to violence. Soldiers need to know what is acceptable and what is not acceptable behavior."
Klickman said the training will teach three things to curb behavior:
Stop perpetrating the stereotype that the perpetrator is always a creepy guy. It can be anybody from friends to family.
Change the culture. Provide more education to the Soldiers and let them know the command is behind them.
Change the environment. Make it clear that offensive jokes and behavior will not be tolerated.
"Violent offenders like an environment that feels comfortable," Klickman said. "Offenders set up and thrive in an environment that is surrounded by sexual innuendo and sexist jokes. We want to ensure that the environments in our units are not permissive to offenders."
But Klickman emphasized the program is not out to persecute people but to help those individuals who are at risk to offend.
"Not only is there the victim but there is the loss of the person who commits the act," he said. "That person could have been helped. We need to reach potential offenders before they offend. We will not allow that person to go down that path psychologically."
Along with the change in the environment, the trainers want to change the perception. The Special Forces community is 96% male and lean to Alpha personalities.
"Being a Type-A male is not synonymous with perpetrating sexual harassment and sexual assault," Blackburn said.?"USASOC Soldiers are professionals.?I feel that the maturity and professionalism of the Soldiers and Civilians in USASOC makes them more receptive than other communities."
The program has received support from the USASOC command.
"This is not just checking the box," Klickman said. "The command is 100% behind this. They have spent the time and money to make this program successful"
As the trainers go back to their units, they will put the word out that there is help out there for both victim and potential offender. But they will need everybody's help in stopping this problem.
"I think the message is reaching Soldiers," said Lt. Col. Patrick Mallett, USASOC Equal Opportunity and SHARP Program Manager. "It is up to each individual Soldier to take responsibility for the action or inaction when dealing with incidents of sexually inappropriate/illegal behaviors."