The U.S. Army Sexual Harassment/Assault Response and Prevention (SHARP) Academy hosted its second Professional Forum of 2017 at Marshall Auditorium on Tuesday, April 18. The event was entitled "Cyber Confusion: Digital Justification and How Social Media Fuels Sexual Assault," and featured guest speaker Dr. Glenn Scott Lipson, Ph.D., A.B.P.P, forensic psychologist and faculty member at the California School of Forensic Studies.
The purpose of the event was for military attendees to gain insights into sexual assault and harassment in the digital world, and to ask questions of Lipson. The forum 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. Additionally, the forum was viewed via video teleconference nationwide.
The event kicked off with an introduction from Lt. Gen. David Quantock, the Army Inspector General. He discussed the advancements the Army has made when combatting sexual assault.
"We have come a long way in the last four or five years in our fight against sexual assault and harassment," Quantock said. "When you look at all the tools we have in our repertoire from sexual assault response coordinators to victim advocates, it's been a huge improvement over where we were. We've done a lot on the criminal investigation side with the forensic experiential trauma interview techniques we train our CID agents in."
Quantock also credited how we share information for helping the Army reduce incidents of sexual assault.
"Education has had an impact in the Force," Quantock said. "One of the biggest challenges we have in the Army is turn over. We bring in about 110,000 new Solders a year. We've got to be smart as an institution on how we reeducate them on the values we as an Army enterprise hold dear."
Teeing up for Lipson's presentation, Quantock continued by discussing the topic of the day -- digital addiction and its effect in how people relate to each other.
"Everyone's addiction to devices has been a huge issue and you see it get worse every single day," Quantock said. "You can't go out dining out without seeing a family of four with every one of them looking at a mobile phone. Social media gives them that removal from reality and outs them in a digital world where they have the illusion that they have no responsibility or accountability."
Lipson started his presentation with the detrimental effect engaging in too much social media can have on relationships with loved ones and casual acquaintances alike.
"Shorter attention spans, less ability to have intimate conversations with others because discussions are now taking place in tweets, leads to a decreased ability to read interpersonal cues," Lipson said. "This digital world has changed our brain functioning making us more impulsive."
Lipson shared three factors his team's research has discovered in their studies that point to digital addiction as a culprit in breaking down social norms when it comes to human relationships.
"First, I believe that some of the photographs and other information posted on social media sites contributes to a work hard and party culture," Lipson said. "Wanting to be perceived as attractive many enlisted post photographs and commentary that have a sexualized component that might be interpreted as suggesting there is a desire for intimacy whenever a chance might become available. Two, the Internet fuels need for stimulation - the Coolidge effect - that comes from the social media world. Third, this is coupled with the objectification and sexualization of women."
Lipson overall objective is not just response to unwanted sexual advances in our culture. He believes prevention is paramount to addressing this problem in our society.
"My goal remains one of prevention and my emphasis will be on the contribution of social media to the problem of sexual assault," Lipson said. "Prevention is most effective when we understand the pathways to misconduct."
Prevention is one of the key topics discussed at the quarterly SHARP Professional forum and an important part of the Army's fight against sexual misconduct, according to Colonel Geoff Catlett, director of the SHARP Academy.
"The SHARP Professional Forum is a subject matter expert venue for the Army," Catlett said. "We bring in prosecutors, academics, medical experts -- all to talk about various aspects of this issue of sexual violence, and educate our students and the Army."