A strong unit consists of Soldiers and leaders working together to establish trust and build cohesion. It is this united atmosphere that creates an environment where teams can communicate effectively, overcome adversity, and achieve the mission. These characteristics bond Soldiers together on and off the battlefield.
“People come into the Army with different perspectives…life experiences. Army Values brings them together,” said Sexual Harassment/Assault Response and Prevention Oversight Program Manager Regina Moore.
However, there is additional work to be done alongside learning the core Army Values. Each Soldier also has a responsibility to respect and honor the boundaries of others. In all relationships, establishing and respecting boundaries means setting standards for and limits on daily interactions.
“It could be setting a standard as to what happens in the common areas, sharing food, even calling someone (a) name,” said Moore. “Sometimes those types of situations can lead to bad feelings, issues, fights…just because of something as simple as not asking to use something in the refrigerator…or using a nickname for someone that they don’t like.”
According to the University of Kentucky Violence Intervention and Prevention Center, the function of personal boundaries can be compared to a property line: “We have all seen 'No Trespassing' signs, which send a clear message that if you violate that boundary, there will be a consequence. This type of boundary is easy to picture and understand because you can see the sign and the border it protects. Personal boundaries can be harder to define because the lines are invisible, can change, and are unique to each individual.” This is where open communication is paramount. “Start with a conversation about what your expectations are as a friend. Ask yourself what you aren’t okay with. What are your expectations? Ask what crosses the line for you or your friend,” said Moore.
Violation of boundaries violate respect, and as a result, break down trust. Lt. Col. Alexander Schneider, Office of the Judge Advocate General, or OTJAG, explains: “At the least severe end of (the Continuum of Harm) – there is a lack of respect or consideration from one person to another, growing in severity to inappropriate behavior, continuing in severity to behavior that would constitute sexual harassment... .” These actions could equate to bullying, hazing, rough-housing, or gossiping.
Unit cohesion is the social bond among unit members that encourages teamwork. Once those teams fall apart, Soldiers may feel isolated. “As soon as someone has crossed the line you might ask yourself, ‘Can I trust this person to have my back?’” Moore said.
When Soldiers honor each other’s boundaries, it fosters a culture where everyone feels respected and an environment where everyone can feel safe. “A well-led, disciplined unit that doesn’t tolerate sexual harassment or inappropriate behavior and where everyone insists upon mutual respect between members of the organization, will be an environment where sexual assault and sexual harassment are deterred,” said Schneider.
Everyone should feel comfortable and safe to express when the words or actions of others crosses the line. For resources on setting personal boundaries, consider meeting with a therapist or reach out to your local chaplain. For more information about sexual harassment or sexual assault prevention, please visit https://www.armyresilience.army.mil/sharp. If you don’t feel safe in your unit, contact your unit Victim Advocate, brigade SARC, or the Safe Helpline at 877-995-5247 or https://chat-ohl4.safehelpline.org/tos/SHL.