Russell W. Strand, co-founder and managing partner of SHIFT, LLC., independent consultant, educator and presenter, was the guest speaker at this quarter's Sexual Harassment/Assault Response and Prevention (SHARP) Academy Professional Forum, which was entitled "Senior Leader Cultural Change -- Building a World that Doesn't Exist" Wednesday, Aug. 23. The purpose of the event was to provide leaders, SHARP professionals and advocacy partners the knowledge of creating an environment that is less likely to tolerate sexual assault and harassment.
"The overarching message today is that sexual assault is not the problem in the military," Strand said. "The problem in the military is we need to be who we say we are all the time. Not only do changes to the military culture need to be leader-led, but they need to be peer-driven. Without peer participation, the culture doesn't change."
Strand said the challenge to this method is that in the military the peers change out every four to five years.
"The entire base of the culture changes almost completely every time service members move to their next duty station," Strand said. "We have to maintain vigilance on our efforts because every year we get one-fourth to one-third of the new Solider population that we have to inculcate to our values."
Strand, who was formally a military police investigator and Criminal Investigation Division (CID) agent, presented attendees with up-to-date research, case studies and strategies on understanding sex offenders from a criminal justice viewpoint. He offered evidence on how offenders not only groom and manipulate victims, but coworkers, friends, relatives, neighbors and professionals as well.
Other objectives of Strand's presentation were to: identify rape myths that enable sex offenders to thrive in our society; helps attendees to understand the impact and neuroscience of sexual assault; and define culture change and implement actions to create positive change.
"Sex offenders thrive in a rape-prone, rape myth-accepting culture," Strand said. "Media and entertainment also shape our beliefs and values. These industries promulgate many cultural beliefs surrounding the issue of sexual violence. What we've been taught about typical offender typologies compared to what we think we know with empirical research and current state of knowledge are vastly different."
This was the first Professional Forum hosted by the new director of the SHARP Academy, Colonel Christopher Engen, who recently took reins of the organization from Col. Geoffrey Catlett.
"Changing the culture and unit climate is vital to our long-term prevention efforts," Engen said. "Mr. Strand's insights on peer involvement and how we, as leaders, can spur culture change helps us to improve and really affect change as we move ahead."
The SHARP Professional Forum is part of a quarterly series the SHARP Academy and Fort Leavenworth SHARP Program Office hosts.
"These forums provide the opportunity for professionals from across the SHARP community to come together and hear from experts in the field on a wide range of applicable topics," Engen said. "It broadens our knowledge base on the effectiveness of our programs and ensures the knowledge and information is timely and relevant to our efforts.
"We have great participation from across Fort Leavenworth and the region," Engen continued. "It is not just military personnel in attendance, but civilian law enforcement, healthcare providers, officials from local colleges and universities. We welcome the dialogue and sharing of information, and we hope to see continued participation in future events."
For more information on the SHARP Academy, visit http://usacac.army.mil/schools-and-centers/sharp-academy.