REDSTONE ARSENAL, Alabama -- Army civilians are now able to utilize the Army's Sexual Harassment/Assault Response and Prevention, or SHARP, program.

Beginning in January, Secretary of the Army Directive 2017-02 provides for the immediate implementation, during a one-year pilot program, to allow SHARP professionals to be able to assist Department of the Army civilians by offering referral services, restricted and unrestricted reporting, and entering information into the Defense Sexual Assault Incident Database, or DSAID.

"The significance of the SHARP Program being fully accessible to DA civilians is tremendous. It shows the Army's intent on improving and enhancing the SHARP program across the enterprise," said Dr. Julie Lindahl, U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense Command/Army Forces Strategic Command SHARP program manager. "This further exemplifies that it takes people to complete the mission, so it's important we take care of our people, both military and civilian. Additionally, it improves the readiness of the workforce, posturing us for resilient and steadfast capabilities."

With this new avenue of support, Army civilian employees will have access to the full Sexual Assault Prevention and Response, or SAPR, services that are offered to active-duty servicemembers. They will also have access to SAPR advocacy services of a Sexual Assault Response Coordinator, or SARC, and a SAPR victim advocate, or VA.

This does not include additional medical entitlements or legal services to which they are not already authorized by law or policy.

"This is a big deal because civilians work alongside Soldiers day in and day out, sometimes working the same mission and responsibilities so they deserve the same rights and options," Lindahl said. "The military has a 'one team, one fight' mentality, so it's only fair and equitable that all personnel be afforded services and support. There is no bias when it comes to sexual assault; it can happen to anyone by anyone. We need to protect our people which in turn protects our mission."

DA civilians who believe they are victims of sexual assault may file either an unrestricted or restricted report and receive assistive services from SARCs, SHARP VAs and victim representatives, or VRs. SHARP cases will also be entered into DSAID.

Unrestricted reporting will result in notification to the supervisor or chain of command and the appropriate military or civilian law enforcement agency. A criminal investigation will be initiated and prosecution is possible.

Restricted reporting results in no notification to the supervisor, chain of command or law enforcement. No criminal investigation will occur, thus limiting the government's ability to hold the alleged assailant accountable.

"The SHARP program provides services and support to victims of sexual assault by a non-intimate partner," Lindahl said. "There are two reporting options, restricted and unrestricted, which Soldiers, DA civilians, and adult family members can elect. This new directive and trial period affords DA civilians sexual assault services and support, however they still go to the local Equal Employment Opportunity office for assistance with sexual harassment complaints."

Emergency medical services at a military medical treatment facility are authorized. Nonemergency medical services at a facility are not authorized unless the victim is otherwise legally entitled to the services. SARCs, VAs or VRs may help victims find off-post resources such as rape crisis centers and counseling services.

Civilian victims are not required to use SARCs, VAs or VRs to report a sexual assault. This is not a change in terms or conditions of employment for DA civilians and use of these services is strictly voluntary.

"This will benefit the civilian workforce across the enterprise because it shows that they matter just as much as the military personnel," Lindahl said. "This effort was achieved by tireless research, analysis, and manpower to request an exception to policy. The Army acknowledges the need for improvement and recognizes the benefit of enhancing and expanding services and support.

"This effort is a complete win for USASMDC/ARSTRAT given our geographical disbursement, with majority civilian population," she added. "We are now well-appointed and ready to fully support and service the entire command. The SHARP program has come a long way, with vast improvements, and this just proves that we continue to foster developments and enhancements."