FORT LEE, Va. – Encouraging input and opening an avenue for anonymous reporting is the stated purpose of a new SHARP drop box program recently implemented at the Army Logistics University here.
Master Sgt. John Larche and Sgt. 1st Class Towayne Uzzle – the university’s outgoing and incoming sexual assault response coordinators, respectively – spearheaded the project that resulted in drop boxes being installed on each floor of each wing of ALU as well as a stairwell area in the neighboring privatized lodging facility where students stay while attending classes.
“We believe it’s needed,” Larche observed, “because there are people who won’t speak up, thinking it’s bad for their career or fearing retaliation. Having an anonymous reporting option increases the possibility of a problem or incident being brought to our attention sooner, and we can better inform the commandant and ALU president what’s going on in their footprint. We can put out the smoke before it becomes a fire. We can deal with harassment before it develops into a sexual assault.”
The SARC’s emphasized they are the only ones who will see notes placed into the locked drop boxes that are checked every few days. Those placing messages inside don’t have to include their name or contact info, but if they do so, it will remain confidential.
Yessica Gonzalez Hernandez, who previously worked at ALU and now serves as the Fort Lee Garrison SARC, pointed out that anonymous reporting systems are essential to the SHARP – Sexual Harassment/Assault Response and Prevention – program because they encourage individuals who are being harassed to speak up earlier.
“An anonymous report could stop a sexual predator before that person harms someone,” she said. “It could bring to light a toxic environment that encourages harassment and needs to be corrected. If someone has been victimized, we want them to come to us and ask for help, and this is an option although we prefer immediate contact to get that process started as soon as possible.”
Uzzle made a point about messaging.
“The ALU community will see them every day and hopefully associate it with that open invitation to get involved and say something so bad things are not allowed to continue,” he said. “It reinforces the message that sexual misconduct is not acceptable anytime or anywhere in America’s Army.”
Elaborating on other ways ALU is supporting SHARP, Larche said they’ve implemented a Students Against Sexual Harassment, or SASH, program (related feature available at www.army.mil/article/241623). It trains volunteer students to act as liaisons for the SARCs – helping to spread the word about prohibited activities; intervening if they encounter inappropriate behavior and assuring battle buddies they’re part of the support network available is someone is victimized.
All programs of instruction at ALU also include open discussion sessions where participants discuss the issues, share experiences and articulate how they see their role as leaders who are expected to educate, intervene and respond. The importance of those discussions “becomes clear,” the SARCs noted, when one considers a student body that consists of new lieutenants starting their career as logistical officers, captains preparing for company commands, noncommissioned officers developing their troop leadership skills, and other future influencers of Army Sustainment.
As a final note about the drop box project, Gonzalez Hernandez acknowledged the contributions of Stephanie Warren who is in training to become the new SHARP victim advocate at ALU. She designed the art for the project. Michael Bayerl, general manager of the IHG facility at Fort Lee, sought and obtained approval to get a drop box installed in a stairway of the hotel.