By Terrance BellApril 7, 2016
FORT LEE, Va. (April 7, 2016) -- As it stands, Sgt. 1st Class Felicia Griffin is required to provide roughly four hours of Sexual Harassment/Assault Response and Prevention training to 600 or so Soldiers monthly in her position as the victim advocate for the 262th Quartermaster Battalion.
But that does not sit well with the 18-year Soldier. By her estimation, much more is needed to help junior troops gain not only a better understanding of SHARP but the causes and effects of their behaviors and actions.
"I want them to understand not only the SHARP program but how their actions (whether negative or positive) could affect them and the people around them," she said. "We always talk about the after-effects, which is great, and we do focus on prevention, but at the same time, do Soldiers really know what happens when someone is victimized? They probably don't."
Griffin's vehicle for enhanced SHARP learning is the Roundtree Mentorship Program, an effort that was already in place when she first became the battalion victim advocate in 2014. Roundtree is a mentorship program that explores relationships as a basis for sexual harassment and assault, covering a range of communication and behavioral issues. Griffin said the program conducts about two sessions per month. Participation is voluntary.
"The whole program is based on preventing bad relationships," she said.
Roundtree's dominant area of focus is communication. Griffin said facilitating candid discussions on how wants and desires are conveyed among partners, how lingo can sometimes distort expectations and perceptions about consent are key to helping Soldiers make sense of relationships. Among them, consent is a topic Griffin takes delight in breaking down for students. She is frank, honest and goes as far as explaining the actions of two parties exchanging affections leading up to "getting busy," student parlance for having sex.
"What if you were kissing and all of a sudden your hand slides down to her buttocks?" posed Griffin in a question typically directed at male Soldiers. "Did she consent to that?' They'll respond, 'Do you mean I have to ask someone for permission to touch their booty?' I'll say 'If you want to stay out of my office you do.'"
Roundtree is bolstered by the instruction of Jane Clayborne, director of community relations, James House, a Hopewell shelter and advocacy organization for victims of sexual and domestic abuse. Clayborne's training sessions focus on good relationships versus bad and are interactive, engaging and dynamic, said Griffin.
"She conducts activities that require responses from participants," she said, noting they are typically asked to make assessments of behavior and choices regarding relationships.
"There's probably about 10 classes I do altogether," said Claiborne. "They all kind of lead up to taking your time, taking a step back, thinking about what you're doing and thinking about where the other person is coming from."
Lt. Col. Brian Wolford, commander, 262nd QM Bn., said Roundtree rounds out the battalion's SHARP training program in that it is more comprehensive and appealing to students.
"It takes it to a level where it is a little less formal and a little less rigid," he said. "Every week, we get in 100-200 new students so we start the (SHARP) training over and over again. In the mentorship program, we work in smaller groups. We allow for the interplay of communication between our new Soldiers and folks like Sgt. 1st Class Griffin, who have the personality and training, institutional knowledge and empathy to really develop and get at the key issues.
"On any given day, we have roughly 1,200 Soldiers in our ranks. They were civilians three or four months ago. Whatever they learned or didn't learn about how to treat others for the first 18-22 years of their lives, we have a very short window to ensure they know our values ... what's acceptable in Army culture and what's not."
As it stands, Roundtree mentors somewhere between 30-40 Soldiers monthly, said Griffin, but those numbers might not be indicative of the program's success. She said a better indication is the number of sexual harassment and assault cases the battalion has on the books, which is currently zero. It is something the battalion can take pride in, but it is also a personal achievement, said Griffin -- evidence her efforts and interest in developing Soldiers have paid off.
"I love my job because I like to giving back," said Griffin. "When someone gives something to me, I want to reciprocate. By doing that, if I help one person, I'm helping many because that one person can go out and make a difference in somebody else's life."