WASHINGTON — The safety and well-being of all Department of the Army Civilians, or DACs, is at the forefront of a policy unveiled Friday, which now allows them to receive Army Sexual Harassment/Assault Response and Prevention services.
“Our Army Civilians deserve our support if they are victims of a sexual assault,” said James A. Helis, director of the Army Resilience Directorate, which oversees the SHARP program. “We ask our Army Civilians to support the prevention of sexual assault, to take sexual assault training, and to intervene when they can; the very least we can do is to be by their side if they themselves are the victim of sexual assault.”
The new policy is another example of the Army’s commitment to eliminate harmful behaviors, like sexual assault, from its workforce, which impact all aspects of readiness including unit cohesion, trust, and good order and discipline, Helis said.
“The Army has worked tirelessly to ensure parity for Army Civilians when it comes to SHARP services,” said Jill Londagin, SHARP program director.
In the past, only DACs working overseas or in a deployed environment qualified for limited SHARP services. The only exception was if DACs were also dependents.
“When this program first started, it was believed that [non-deployed] civilians would already have access to victim services in their communities,” she said.
The latest policy opens the door for DACs to receive SHARP services, whether appropriated or non-appropriated civilians, regardless of where they are in the world. However, despite not including contractors or interns, those individuals can still see a sexual assault response coordinator, or SARC, to ask questions about finding resources without making a report.
The policy also lets DACs choose unrestricted reporting using multiple routes, including SARCs; victim advocates, or VAs; or victim representatives, or VRs. Unrestricted reporting allows victims of sexual assault who desire to receive medical treatment, counseling, SARC and VA assistance, and an official investigation of the crime.
“Victims who make an unrestricted report of sexual assault can receive advocacy services from a SARC and a victim advocate for as long as they want instead of just while receiving emergency medical treatment while overseas,” Londagin said.
DACs can make an unrestricted report of sexual assault by using a Department of Defense Form 2910 and SARCs are available to help assign a VA to assist them if they request one, she added.
The policy does not include restricted reporting, expedited transfers, or any additional medical entitlements or legal services DACs are not already allowed by law or policy to use, like emergency medical services, including a sexual assault forensic exam and post-exposure prophylaxis.
In regards to non-emergency services like follow-up care, DACs will not use military medical treatment facilities, if they are not eligible. Instead, SARCs, VAs and VRs will assist DACs in finding off-post resources, like rape crisis centers and counseling services.
A special victims counsel may also be provided on a case-by-case basis for independent legal representation, dependent on the circumstances at the time of the request.
“There is no change to processes or procedures for holding individuals accountable for their actions,” Helis said. “Subjects can be investigated and prosecuted by civilian authorities if [the U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Command] doesn’t have jurisdiction under the [Uniform Code of Military Justice].”
“DACs who are victims of sexual assault, who chose to not receive SHARP advocacy or other support services, are highly encouraged to utilize the Employee Assistance Program,” Londagin said.
EAP services include assessments, counseling, and referrals for additional services to employees with personal and/or work-related concerns, ensuring that DACs receiving support after a traumatic event is the upmost priority, she added.
SHARP services are not available to DACs for cases of sexual assault committed by an intimate partner, which is defined as a current or former spouse, a person with whom the victim shares a child in common or a current or former intimate partner whom the victim has shared a common domicile for more than 30 days.
Relating to sexual harassment, Equal Employment Opportunity offices will manage those complaints. SARCs, VAs and VRs can still help direct DACs to an EEO point of contact.
Although the new policy is intended to assist civilians, they will not be required to use the services and the policy will not change the terms and conditions of their employment, as SHARP services are strictly voluntary.
Reporting also remains voluntary. However, victims are encouraged to report so they can receive services, offenders can be held accountable and Army leaders can see an accurate view of the depth and breadth of sexual violence within its ranks.
Sexual assault, sexual harassment, and associated retaliatory behavior have no place in the Army, Londagin said.
“Victims who receive advocacy services are more likely to receive medical treatment, engage with law enforcement and stay engaged throughout the criminal justice process,” she said. “This can have a tremendous effect not just for individual victims, but for a community in the potential to prevent additional assault.”