By Sean KimmonsApril 10, 2017
WASHINGTON (Army News Service) -- As the sexual assault response coordinator for an Army Reserve command that is stretched out over five Midwestern states, Tiffany Griffin spends a lot of time on the road, online, or on the phone helping victims of sexual assault, or teaching other Soldiers how to prevent them.
In one recent case, she spent days talking and exchanging emails with a female Soldier who had been attacked. The woman later thanked Griffin, saying her dedication made her believe in the Army's Sexual Harassment/Assault Response and Prevention program, a program she initially had doubts about.
"It makes me feel great, like I really accomplished something," said Griffin, who is also a staff sergeant in the Army Reserve. "It's a hard, stressful job, but it can be very, very rewarding at the same time."
That sort of outreach, among her other efforts, is why Griffin was named the Army SARC of the Year for 2017. She received the award Wednesday during a ceremony at the Pentagon, which coincided with the kickoff for Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month.
Also honored at the event was Sgt. 1st Class Stephanie Kennett of the Mississippi National Guard. She was named the National Guard Bureau's SARC of the Year. Additionally, the SHARP team at Fort Polk, Louisiana, earned the Defense Department's Sexual Assault Prevention Innovation Award for their multiple programs.
For Griffin, victim resources at the 103rd Sustainment Command (Expeditionary) aren't as plentiful as one may see at active-duty installations, she said, so she guides Soldiers to local programs off base.
One such resource has been the Department of Veterans Affairs, which expanded access of its mental health treatment program to victims of rape, sexual assault or harassment in 2014. This has allowed National Guard and Army Reserve members to get care even if their incident didn't occur on active service or in training.
The VA also doesn't report those assaults back to the Soldier's unit, Griffin said, which may lead to more victims seeking care.
"Even though we're so many years into the [SHARP] program," she said, "people are still very fearful of that retaliation or being looked at differently."
Griffin said she also tracks the outcomes for sex-related crimes committed by Soldiers in the command's 60-plus units.
"I track the case from start to finish," she said. "That way, depending on what the adjudication is, we'll separate them."
HAND IN HAND WITH POLICE
As a former sheriff's deputy, Kennett frequently steps back into her element to bridge the civilian-military gap and assist Mississippi law enforcement in learning how to deal with those who've been through one of those crimes.
As part of realistic training, she said, victim advocates from her office will serve as role players, while police officers respond to a mock domestic violence call, which can sometimes involve a sexual assault.
That type of collaboration is important, she said, especially if and when a real-life call involves a Soldier.
"They're able to know that we're working with them and not against them," she said of the local authorities. "And if they have the case ... we stand there with them."
For the past year, Kennett has also served in a dual-hatted role as the SARC and the victim advocate coordinator. While a new SARC is being groomed to replace her, Kennett said, she still plans to continue her work in the SHARP program like she has been doing since 2008.
"As Soldiers, we're supposed to be protectors," she said. "If we fail to protect our own, how does that represent who we are and how does that fall back on the community looking back at us?"
At Fort Polk, Sgt. 1st Class Bethany Cortes and her team have rolled out several SHARP programs.
On March 29, they organized their second annual torch run with 4,000 Soldiers jogging around the installation in advance of Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month. The torch was passed down to the unit commanders to demonstrate solidarity among all of the Soldiers, who also recited a "see something, say something, do something" pledge.
The team also developed a SHARP booklet for squad leaders to use so they could discuss with their Soldiers the myths and facts of sexual assault and harassment, among other pertinent information.
Cortes said they got the idea after Sgt. Maj. of the Army Daniel Dailey met with squad leaders two years ago to find out how to engage younger Soldiers.
The squad leaders, she said, told him that Soldiers were inundated with slideshows, but weren't really walking away with learning anything new.
"They wanted something more discussion based," she said. "We took that approach and made it into a script for squad leaders to be able to have that conversation with their squad members."
The sturdy booklet, which is made out of polyester paper and is small enough to fit in a cargo pocket, is meant to be used by squad leaders during a break in training or when there's free time.
"What we were finding is that the squad member remembered the information better when it came from his first-line supervisor than if it came from a SHARP rep," she said.
Cortes, who accepted the innovation award along with Maj. Hilary Camphouse and Sgt. 1st Class Tiffany China, said they also developed a smart card that every Soldier carries in their uniform. Printed on the card are the pledge, hotline numbers, and the base commander's SHARP initiatives.
"It's basically the 'Cliff Notes' for what to do to respond to sexual assault or sexual harassment," Cortes said, adding that the card is also passed out to rotational units at the Joint Readiness Training Center.
Other efforts include a "Re-Teal" program that educates SHARP specialists each quarter on how they can be better or overcome certain problems in the SHARP program, such as a recent dip in male victim reporting.
"That's something we're looking at because we primarily have a male population at our post," she said.
There is also the Guardian program, which encourages junior enlisted Soldiers to positively influence their peers. Soldiers who volunteer for the program wear a Guardian t-shirt and promote SHARP initiatives at events, such as trips sponsored by the Better Opportunities for Single Soldiers program.
Dailey, who helped present the awards during the ceremony, urged every Soldier to take the time during sexual assault awareness month to reflect on what they can do to improve as individuals and as an organization.
Two years ago during the monthlong observance, Dailey announced the Not in my Squad initiative, which calls for young leaders to take ownership of solutions to rid the ranks of sexual assault, harassment and retaliation.
"They have no place in our Army, on duty, off duty, online or in public," he said. "We must be held accountable and maintain zero tolerance for actions that are not in keeping with our values and our profession. Such conduct is inconsistent with who we are as an Army."
(Follow Sean Kimmons on Twitter: @KimmonsARNEWS)