By Stephen P. Kretsinger Sr., PQC contractor with the U.S. Army Combined Arms CenterFebruary 13, 2017
The U.S. Army Sexual Harassment/Assault Response and Prevention (SHARP) Academy hosted its first Professional Forum at Marshall Auditorium of 2017 on Wednesday, Feb. 8. The event was entitled "Building Safe Communities in our Nation's Schools," and featured speakers from five different universities and a guest from the Metropolitan Organization to Counter Sexual Assault (MOCSA).
The purpose of the event was for military attendees to gain insights and ask questions of sexual assault prevention and response professionals working in the academic setting. It was attended by current SHARP Academy students and Fort Leavenworth community members including Kirby Brown, deputy to the commanding general of the U.S. Army Combined Arms Center (CAC), and Col. Edward Bohnemann, chief of staff for CAC.
The event kicked off with Mike Medis, advocacy and outreach specialist, who represented MOCSA and spoke about the need to include more men in the sexual assault prevention and response movement.
"Over the last few years, MOCSA as a Rape Crisis Center has evolved its services both by males and for males," Medis said. "Men's Support Groups can provide a safe environment for cultural change where men learn to talk, trust and feel the sexual abuse and assault they've experienced. These type of Male Support Groups are often survivor facilitated and have specific dynamics for them to last and be successful. In this forum, we will discuss how those dynamics are contained in a men's group."
Ali Smith, campus victim advocate at Pittsburg State University, discussed the importance of colleges having a full-time representative -- versus part-time -- on campus.
"Before I arrived, an advocate was only on campus 10 hours a week," Smith said. "It makes a huge difference in the awareness of the service that exist for students. When a student is isolated in a campus environment, they may not know what services are available nearby. When you put someone to provide that service on campus full-time, students are better able to see that they are available to them."
Jen Brookman, director of the Sexual Assault Prevention and Education Center (SAPEC) at the University of Kansas, shared her stance that primary prevention is the most important way to deal with sexual assault.
"The SAPEC was established to provide comprehensive primary prevention education at the University of Kansas, Brockman said. "One of the first efforts of SAPEC was to develop a collaborative partnership with the University's athletic department. These efforts have resulted in comprehensive prevention programing for student athletes, staff and coaches."
Alan Heisterkamp, PhD., and Lt. Col. Glen Keith, representing University of Northern Iowa, highlighted gender violence prevention strategies and bystander methods conducted with ROTC cadets and military staff on a large, four-year public university and a small, private liberal arts college in Iowa.
Andy Pratt, PhD., vice president for Social Responsibility and Engagement at William Jewell College, provided an overview of prevention/education, investigation, resolution and identified the impact of Title IX work on a college community of 1000 students and 300 employees.
"I've been at William Jewell for 15 years, and I've been the Title IX coordinator for 30 months," Pratt said. "The process of sorting out a situation of sexual misconduct through the Title IX process is important, but one of things I've seen is that it is not emotionally satisfying to the survivor. It's important to engage counselling, friend groups and other resources to put the complainant in touch with a network of help."
Jennifer Schmidt, licensed clinical professional counselor for the Benedictine College Counseling Center, and three undergraduate students -- Elise Huntley, Elaine Connelly and Kristen Hylen -- discussed the Ravens CARE program at their school. Ravens CARE is a student leadership group that promotes ongoing awareness and prevention programs for sexual assault and dating violence. Program leaders serve as peer support for students affected by sexual assault.
"We need to trust the insights and creativity of those who are encountering people who are survivors of sexual assault," Schmidt said. "I trust these students a lot. They're bright and have really good insights. Developing a good team with an openness to creativity makes us strong."
"Working with the program I've learned so much about victims who are effected by trauma, and how to really talk and listen to survivors," Hylen said.
The event was broken into two sessions, each followed by question-and-answer opportunities.
The SHARP Professional Forum is part of a quarterly series the SHARP Academy and Fort Leavenworth SHARP Program Office hosts.
"The SHARP Professional Forum is about bringing in subject matter experts from around the country in order to provide a broader perspective on this issue of sexual violence in the military," Catlett said. "Bringing these professionals to Fort Leavenworth contributes additional insight to our students and the Fort Leavenworth community when working to prevent and respond to sexual assault."