SHARP Helps Eliminate Stigma

By Staff Sgt. Mark A. Moore IIFebruary 23, 2016

SHARP Helps Eliminate Stigma
Sgt. 1st Class Tamara Soto, brigade victim advocate, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division (LI), discusses male-on-male sexual assault with Sexual Harassment/Assault Response & Prevention (SHARP) representatives assigned to the 2nd BCT Feb.... (Photo Credit: U.S. Army) VIEW ORIGINAL

Statistics derived from anonymous surveys as part of recent Department of Defense studies revealed a 20-percent increase in male-on-male sexual assault reporting since 2006. While the factors contributing to the increased reporting might not be clear, one factor remains transparent -- Sexual Harassment / Assault Response and Prevention, or SHARP, representatives remain dedicated to erasing the stigma associated with reporting and seeking help.

SHARP representatives assigned to the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division (LI), gathered Feb. 11 at the Commando Wellness Center to discuss the increase in male sexual assault reports.

Vanessa Pierce-Wills, 2nd Brigade Combat Team SHARP victim advocate, explained that male-on-male sexual assault has always been an issue, but more male Soldiers now are willing to identify themselves due to advancements made within the SHARP educational programs.

SHARP officials strongly emphasize training for battalion victim advocates and company advisers, following proper procedures when assisting victims, holding campaigns to raise awareness of sexual assault, maintaining sexual assault hotlines for reporting and providing advisers to command teams.

"Education is the biggest prevention (tool) we have," Pierce-Wills said. "We are here for you. There is no stigma. You can come to us and file a restricted report; nobody else will know."

She explained that if victims do not come forward, they, as advocates are unable to provide the physical and mental health care that people might need.

Attesting to the effectiveness of the program was Sgt. 1st Class Douglas Taylor, paralegal noncommissioned officer, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, who is responsible for processing these cases.

"The SHARP program is helping the victims feel more comfortable in coming forward and reporting; that's why there is (an increase) in reports," he said. "Five to 10 years ago, Soldiers weren't reporting because they didn't feel comfortable coming forward or confident in the program."

In addition to educational programs, the center provides anonymity to those who visit.

"We moved these programs from the brigade to the (Commando) Wellness Center in order to give people more confidentiality," Pierce-Wills explained. "At the headquarters (building), you had to sign in and explain where you are going."

Pierce-Wills added that visitors to the center see only those representatives necessary in resolving their issues.

She also reiterated the importance of taking care of one's body and stopping the assault.

"This is your body," she said. "If someone is doing something to you, you need to take care of it."

Sexual assault not only affects an individual, it also is detrimental to the health and readiness of a unit.

Moreover, sexual assault is punishable under Article 120 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice, carrying a maximum punishment of life in confinement or death.

It is the 2nd Brigade Combat Team's standing policy that all personnel are provided with an environment free of sexual assault.

The Commando Wellness Center is located in Bldg. 10288, 4th Armored Division Drive. It is open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday (including training holidays).

Service members and their Families are welcome to stop by the Commando Wellness Center, or they can schedule an appointment with a counselor by calling the Fort Drum SHARP hotline at (315) 767-6128; 2nd BCT office, (315) 772-3722, or the 24-hour cell at (315) 804-7265; Equal Opportunity, (315) 772-3662; Sexual Assault Response Coordinator, (315) 774-2018; Military Family Life Counselor, (315) 955-4823; or Master Resilience Training, (315) 772-3684.