Army focused on stopping sexual retaliation, says G-1

By David VergunMarch 14, 2016

(Photo Credit: U.S. Army) VIEW ORIGINAL

WASHINGTON (Army News Service, March 9, 2016) -- When asked about the 62-percent retaliation rate for Soldiers reporting sexual harassment and assault, Lt. Gen. James C. McConville replied to a lawmaker: "That's our biggest concern right now … we still need to get after it."

McConville, deputy chief of staff for Personnel, Army G-1, and his counterparts from the other services, testified before a Senate Armed Services Committee's subcommittee on Personnel hearing, March 9.

The message that retaliation and retribution are wrong, as well as criminal, needs "to get down to the lowest levels in the squads and commanders also have to be held responsible," McConville said.

In many cases of retaliation reports, commands have taken appropriate actions, he added. The Army has a good path for reporting sexual assaults, but retaliation has to be taken care of as well.

The Army and other services will be publishing policies to make service members understand the seriousness and consequences for retaliation or reprisals, he said.

The Office of the Secretary of Defense has initiated a working group with each of the services to develop overall Department of Defense policies. These policies will include common definitions, prosecutorial options available and increasing awareness of the problem and its prevalence in the services, he said.

In short, "it's a crime, it can and will be punished and it won't be tolerated," he emphasized.

As a parent of three children, "I expect, and my wife demands that we provide a safe and secure environment for our children," he said. His two sons and daughter are all serving in the Army.

The Army, "has put a tremendous amount of resources into SHARP. People are getting it, but we need to continue working on it," he added.

Sexual harassment and assault are part of a larger issue of upholding Army Values, McConville said.

Every year, 120,000 Soldiers come into the Army and each of those Soldiers comes in with differing sets of values, he said. It's important to inculcate each of those Soldiers with Army Values.

Changing the culture starts from the top, but a lot of it also needs to come from the bottom up, from the squad level, he said.

LeWonnie Belcher, a branch chief of the G-1 SHARP Program Office, said there are a couple of data points pertaining to retaliation and sexual assault/harassment. In a recent RAND report, it states that 52 percent of women who officially reported a sexual assault (normally penetrative offense) felt some sort of professional or social retaliation (downgrade of performance appraisal, promotion denials/exclusion from social events or given the cold shoulder treatment, etc.).

There's another statistic that's cited, and that is from the Workplace Gender Relations Survey of the Army active component. That survey states that 62 percent of women who reported unwanted sexual contact, perceived some form of professional or social retaliation.

Related Links:

Army News Service Inside the Army News Ready and Resilient

STAND-TO!: SHARP - Victim Advocacy

STAND-TO!: Army SHARP Social Media Presence

Sexual Harassment/Assault Response and Prevention Program