The Army continues to update and implement policies and procedures aimed at tackling sexual offenses.
In November 2021, the Secretary of the Army directed commanders at all levels receive updated Sexual Harassment/ Assault Response and Prevention Program (SHARP) training. This directive is outlined in Executive Order (EXORD) Headquarters Department of the Army (HQDA) 110-22.
Leaders are responsible for implementing and ensuring policies against sexual offenses are upheld, said Jill Londagin, U.S. Army SHARP director. “These incidents destroy cohesion, unity, and the teamwork needed to ensure success for our worldwide missions.”
In accordance with the EXORD, commanders and leaders are to ensure there’s a shared understanding and correct application of updated reporting procedures for sexual assault. Leaders are defined as squad leaders and above and includes civilian supervisors.
“Commanders and leaders need to be trained on sexual harassment and sexual assault prevention and response procedures in order to provide the appropriate, respectful, and professional support to their Soldiers,” said Londagin.
At the direction of President Biden, on Feb. 26, 2021, Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin established the 90-day Independent Review Commission (IRC) on Sexual Assault in the Military. The commission, was charged with conducting an independent, impartial assessment of the military’s current treatment of sexual assault and sexual harassment.
The results of the IRC included 82 recommendations which the Army has worked to implement with various timelines depending on the resources needed to implement the plan.
As stated by the SECDEF in his implementation memo, “This is a leadership issue, and we will lead.”
Preventing, responding to, and supporting Soldiers who are victims of demeaning language, sexual assault, sexual harassment, and retaliation is a command responsibility. The SHARP leader training is the result of the report’s findings that command teams lack of understanding for policies, confidentiality, and basic awareness of how trauma impacts victims.
The training curriculum reflects updated sexual assault reporting procedures. SHARP professionals will execute the SHARP leader training.
Below are the objectives and directives outlined in the EXORD which will serve as guidance for the commanders and leaders:
· Commanders and leaders will be provided scenarios to facilitate discussion of appropriate behavior, to include potential resentment of peers towards, victims, bystanders, or witnesses who report sexual assault.
· Commanders and leaders shall receive training to be able to explain to all personnel in their respective chains of command that when they become aware of allegations of retaliation, reprisal, ostracism, or maltreatment, they are required to take appropriate measures to protect the individual witnesses or in anyone involved in the investigation who reported the allegations.
· Directs senior commanders to publicize, by all means available, how to report a sexual assault, including associated reports of retaliation at the locations.
· Directs leaders (including first-line supervisors) to encourage reporting of sexual assault in accordance with DoD policy as well as reporting of allegations of retaliation in accordance with DoD and service guidance.
· Directs officers, enlisted leaders, military law enforcement to include criminal investigative division (CID) investigators and Sexual Assault Response Coordinators (SARCs) and SHARP Victim Advocates (VAs) receive updated information on the changes to eligibility for allowing victims to file a Department of Defense (DD) Form 2910 and choose the restricted reporting option even if the allegation has been inadvertently or previously disclosed to the command by the victim, suspect or a third party.
The commander and leader training will be implemented over a two-phased approach. Phase 1 began with the publishing of EXORD 110-22 and is complete once all full-time SHARP professionals receive training.
“The Army SHARP academy will deliver a series of six, 90-minute instructional sessions via Microsoft Teams by Mar. 24, 2022,” said Londagin. “This training is for SHARP program managers, full-time SARCs, and victim advocates across the Army enterprise.”
Phase 2 begins once all SHARP professionals are trained and will end once all commanders and leaders receive training by Sep. 30, 2022.
“SHARP professionals trained in Phase 1 will conduct the commanders and leaders training,” said Londagin. “SHARP program managers and/or SARCs will plan and deliver desk-side training for commanders and leaders they support using the approved training materials.”
This training directed by the Secretary of the Army, and in conjunction with the recommendations resulting from the IRC, is a part of a multi-layer approach at combating sexual offenses.