While the holiday season is a time of joy and happiness for many, it can also be a time of stress and sorrow for some.
This fact can especially be true for Soldiers and their family members who are away from loved ones.
Often, depression and suicide are the more heavily discussed topics during the holidays, and the focus is on creating strategies to combat these problems.
While those topics are critical, other troubling issues, such as sexual harassment or sexual assault, are equally important to consider.
Reports indicate that victims of sexual assault or harassment are typically new Soldiers who have just arrived at their first duty station, usually located far from their family and support networks. As a result, the holidays can be especially stressful and lonely for these Soldiers, and this vulnerability can create the elements for potentially dangerous situations.
For example, personnel are on leave and routines are altered to holiday schedules that are not the norm. A new arrival to a duty location, one far from home, such as Hawaii, may preclude a trip to visit family; thus, some personnel may be in an unfamiliar location with the added stress of not having a support network and the structure of normal military operations.
During the holidays, there are numerous parties and gatherings, and alcohol is usually present. Alcohol is often a contributing factor to sexual assault, though not always. The added stress of the holidays may create situations where contributing factors have increased.
During the holidays, the Sexual Harassment/Assault Response and Prevention program, or SHARP, will be fully staffed by caring, professional personnel, around the clock.Every Soldier has a role in the 4S campaign and can "Take a STAND!" against any form of sexual harassment/assault. The SHARP program encourages every Soldier to Intervene, Act and Motivate (I AM Strong).
If you see a Soldier who is at risk, intervene and call for help if you need assistance.
To highlight SHARP during the holidays, the 2nd Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division's SARC (sexual assault response coordinator) has held several events:
•The "Take Back the Night" glow run was held Nov. 22 to promote SHARP awareness.
•The division's 3rd BCT SARC set up an information station in the Bronco Café for Thanksgiving lunch and recorded a SHARP public service announcement, Nov. 26, titled "What's Your No More?"
•Garrison SHARP victim advocates spread holiday cheer by delivering candy with the SHARP hotline number to every directorate.
All these events have highlighted the importance of the SHARP program during the holiday season. Regardless of where you are in the world during the holiday season, if you, your Soldier or friends have been sexually assaulted, reach out for assistance.
We're here if you need us.
(Note: Cole is a SHARP victim advocate.)What is 4S?
The "4S" campaign pays special attention to substance abuse, sexual assaults/harassment, suicide and safety violations.
A key part of the 4S campaign is the Army's SHARP program.
"As we enter the holiday season, everyone needs to be vigilant," said Maj. Gen. Charles Flynn, senior commander, U.S. Army-Hawaii, to sum up the primary prevention strategy of the 4S holiday campaign.
Watch out for your fellow Soldiers during the holidays, and if you see something that concerns you, reach out to that person and ask for help if you need assistance or are not sure what to do.
The SHARP Hotline is 655-9474.
For the Department of Defense, call (877) 995-5247.