ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND, Md. (March 17, 2016) -- In an effort to sustain a ready and resilient Army workforce, Team APG hosted a SHARP (Sexual Harassment/Assault Response and Prevention) Forum and breakfast at the main post chapel here, March 9.
Military leaders, civilians and victim care providers discussed topics pertaining to sexual assault and the challenges faced when providing assistance to victims. APG Senior Commander Maj. Gen. Bruce T. Crawford said addressing the problem requires continuous leadership and accountability.
"There is no place we get to where we get to dust off our hands and say, 'sexual assault is no longer an issue; we have now solved the problem,'" Crawford said.
Rather, confronting sexual assault requires individuals who, he said, are "willing to look folks in the eye and say, 'No more. That is not going to happen in our Army, not on our watch.'"
The forum theme, "How do we renew our compassion to sustain service," was touched on by guest speaker Heather Evans, a counselor with the Elkton Veterans Center, who said it's crucial for victim care providers to retain a personal self-care routine to prevent the compassion fatigue that is so often a part of their jobs.
She likened routine self-care to regular car maintenance, noting that if a car's oil is not changed periodically or if it doesn't receive a tune-up, it's liable to stop working. Likewise, she said, victim care providers who don't take care of their mental and physical well-being will have trouble providing care to others.
It's about "treating yourself as kindly as [you] treat other people," Evans said. "If you don't have good personal boundaries, and you're taking your work home with you, you're never getting a break."
She said good self-care is different for everyone, but can include such activities as exercise, meditation or prayer, spending time with family or friends, participating in a favored hobby or doing something personally meaningful. Signs that an individual needs to practice better self-care include feeling irritable or biased towards certain types of people, experiencing poor sleep quality, or feeling physically or mentally unwell, Evans said.
The forum continued with a question-and-answer session led by a subject matter expert panel that included Evans as well as Brenecia Watson, Equal Employment Opportunity, or EEO, director for the Research Development and Engineering Command, or RDECOM; Special Agent Joshua Adams, U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Command, or CID; and Capt. Allison Marvasti, RDECOM special victim counsel.
Crawford asked each panelist to recommend one idea or change that might improve victim services, and panelists offered their thoughts on embracing local law enforcement, incorporating the EEO into the SHARP Resource Center and expanding legal services in the fight against sexual assault.
According to Crawford, there are only 12 SHARP Resource Centers on U.S. Army installations, and one was placed at APG with the intention of addressing sexual assault amongst the civilian population.
"Nobody is going to be turned away," Marvasti said, explaining that the SHARP Resource Center will provide services to any vicitim of sexual assault -- military or civilian. "We will assist in getting you to the right place."
The forum concluded with a presentation of two-star notes and commander's coins to panelists and organizers.
Victim Advocate Trina Taliaferro, of the Program Executive Office, Intelligence Electronic Warfare & Sensors, or PEO-IEWS, said she felt "empowered" after the guest speaker and panelists' discussions.
"Sometimes you forget that you have a whole supportive community out there," she said. "It's nice to see everyone come together."
Deputy Garrison Chaplain Capt. Jonathan Ginder said the forum was important for SHARP representatives because it "helped them take care of the caregivers and allowed caregivers to ask the hard questions."
April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month, or SAAM, an annual campaign to raise awareness about sexual assault and educate communities and individuals about sexual violence prevention. In recognition of SAAM, the U.S. Army Test and Evaluation Command, or ATEC, will host a SHARP Poetry Slam at the Mallette Training Facility on APG North (Aberdeen) April 26.
The SHARP resource center is located at Bldg. 4305 Susquehanna Avenue on APG North (Aberdeen). For more information, visit the SHARP Resource Center website at https://www.apg.army.mil/Toolbox/SHARP, or call the APG SHARP 24/7 hotline at 410-322-7154.
For information about SAAM, visit the Sexual Assault Awareness Month website at www.nsvrc.org/saam/sexual-assault-awareness-month.
This article originally appeared in the March 17, 2016 issue of the APG News. To read more from the APG News, visit www.teamapg.com/apgnews.