WASHINGTON (Army News Service, April 16, 2012) -- Since 2007, the Army's budget to combat sexual assault has increased fivefold, said the director of Human Resources, Army G-1.
Brig. Gen. Barrye L. Price has oversight of the Army's Sexual Harassment and Assault Response and Prevention program, known as SHARP, and explained that a number of initiatives are underway to help sexual assault victims.
April is both Sexual Assault Awareness Month and National Alcohol Abuse Prevention Month, and Price's directorate has purview over both. "We know that a great deal of sexual assault involves alcohol consumption, and we feel a linkage between the two," he said.
The Army is currently expanding victim services by:
-- credentialing brigade Sexual Assault Response Coordinators, or SARCs, and Victim Advocates, also known as VAs
-- expanding and executing investigative and judge-advocate training and development
-- developing SHARP curriculum for all military and civilians
-- meeting a Congressional directive to have at least one full-time SARC and one full-time VA in every brigade or equivalent-sized unit within the armed forces by October 2013
-- expanding the population serviced by the SHARP Program.
New legislation added family members who are adults, along with civilians and contracted employees in a deployed environment, increasing the serviced population by 50 percent
SHARP began in September 2008, is currently in Phase III of the I.A.M. (Intervene, Act, and Motivate) Strong Campaign. The third phase of the campaign is "achieving cultural change" and it was launched April 2011. Phase IV - sustaining, refining and sharing, is scheduled to launch in April 2013.
RESTRICTED vs. UNRESTRICTED REPORTING
"In our system, we have both restricted reporting, which means it's not brought through to the chain of command, it's not brought forward to Criminal Investigation Division, or CID, and none of the personal identifying information is provided," Price said.
The unrestricted report, he said, is one where the apparatus that includes the victim advocate, the SARC, the chaplain, the provost marshal, the CID, the hospital, and the unit commander are all involved. This is where prosecution would hail from.
To ensure a victim isn't victimized twice, Price said, the Army added an "expedited transfer" option for victims in December of 2011. "This means within 72 hours the local unit will make the decision to have the victim of sexual assault make a permanent change of station out of that unit and particular location."
Also in unrestricted cases, he said, this October will see the implementation of the rule that all evidence, case records and forensics associated with the assault will be retained for 50 years.
"In restricted cases, all of the above is retained for five years," Price said.
Price added that after a case lingers a year in the restricted environment, the SARC will contact the victim and tell him or her that they have the decision now to go unrestricted or leave it in the restricted realm. In the restricted realm, after five years, the victim will be notified that their safe kit and all the forensics associated with that case will be discarded.
"Right now, I would say we're in a transition phase with regard to how we're going to execute the law. There are several things at work. We have to work out the funding piece to hire two people per brigade," Price said.
CREDENTIALING OF SARC AND VA
The credentialing for both SARCs and victim advocates involves an 80 hours of SHARP training they must successfully complete. They must undergo a background check, have letters of recommendation from commanders or supervisors, and be certified by the National Organization of Victim Assistance.
"Following certification, the unit can appoint the individual as a SARC or VA. It also requires 32 hours of continuing education per year to remain credentialed, and they have to be re-certified every year.
"We're learning more about sexual assault, the psychology of an assailant, how to treat victims to ensure they're not victimized twice. The difference between a victim and a survivor, the whole psychology of it. So, it makes sense that continuing education be one of the hallmarks of this program," Price said.
"Right now, CID and Military Police personnel complete Army SHARP annual training. They'll be the primary trainers for this. In fact, most MPs are being trained at our school, which is at Fort Leonard Wood (Mo.), considered the gold standard across the DOD.
Officers and enlisted go through professional military education, he said.
"New recruits are receiving Sex Signal training. This is fun, innovative and exciting, but it really empowers the individual through knowledge of what is appropriate and what may not be.
"They learn what is really a prosecutable offense within the military. So Sex Signals really exposes them to this reality, and the feedback has been absolutely positive. For Soldiers and cadre, our drill sergeants are receiving training on sexual assault," Price said.
The Army also has Mobile Training Teams, or MTTs.
"In the MTT two-week training, over 9,000 of the required 17,000 SHARP personnel have been trained. Commands must have 75 percent of their SHARP personnel trained by March 31," he said.
Last year, CID developed a new 80-hour course for all sexual assault investigators, being held at Fort Leonard Wood, Mo.
Course instruction, he said, includes interview techniques developed by the MP School called Experiential Interview of Trauma Victims. This allows investigators to obtain information about the assault and the offender while minimizing the traumatic effect on the victim.
"This has been recognized by the DOD as a best practice and they're expanding that to train sexual assault investigators in all services, during this year," he said.
Price also said the Office of the Judge Advocate General selected many to serve as Special Victims Prosecutors, based on the judge advocate skills and proven expertise in the courtroom. Prior to assuming the Special Victim Prosecutor duty, the judge advocate completes the 80-hour career prosecutor course at the National District of Attorneys Association, a 40-hour special victim prosecutor conference, and an 80-hour on-the-job training with a designated civilian district attorney's office.
"We take seriously the sacred trust we have with America, and our program, holistically, is focused on prevention, intervention, investigation and prosecution with an emphasis on victim support and protection," Price said.