By Tim Cherry, Belvoir EagleFebruary 15, 2013
There's always a safe haven for victims of sexual harassment and assault.
One is Fort Belvoir's 24/7 confidential hotline, (703) 740-7029, dedicated to providing consultations, referrals and additional forms of assistance.
Servicemembers , Department of Defense civilians and Family members can utilize the hotline whenever they desire.
"The purpose of the hotline is to ensure people have access to reach out for help," said Master Sgt. Tamika Wynn, Fort Belvoir Sexual Harassment/Assault Response and Prevention coordinator. "It promotes awareness and prevention."
The Army defines sexual assault as intentional sexual contact characterized by use of force, physical threat or abuse of authority, or when the victim does not or cannot consent. Examples include rape, nonconsensual sodomy (oral or anal sex), inappropriate sexual fondling or attempts to commits these acts.
Sexual Harassment is a form of gender discrimination that involves unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature between the same or opposite genders when submission to, or rejection of, such conduct explicitly or implicitly affects an individual's employment, work performance, or creates a hostile or intimidating work environment.
"Committing sexual assault or harassment negatively impacts the mission," Wynn said. "Individuals might not want to come to work and may also be afraid to approach people."
For sexual assault, a person can choose the military's restricted reporting option or unrestricted option. The restricted option allows a victim to receive medical treatment, a forensic exam, counseling, chaplain services and advocacy support. The unrestricted option allows these same resources in addition to command intervention and an official investigation.
For sexual harassment, a victim can choose to make an informal or formal complaint. An informal complaint does not appear in writing, while a victim must file a formal grievance in writing and swear to the accuracy of the information.
Reon Brogan, Army Community Services, Installation Victim Advocate, said the SHARP hotline professionals are prepared to provide trained and knowledgeable services to fit a person's needs.
"Taking that first step and calling someone is the hardest step, no doubt, but know you're reaching out to someone on the phone who will provide their undivided attention and 100 percent support to get you proper resources and assistance," Brogan said. "The hotline is a win-win situation for all."
The hotline is also available to non-victims. Wynn said sexual assault and harassment signals include depression, detachment, trust issues and poor work performance. Friends, colleagues and Family who witness a person displaying any of these signals should consider contacting the hotline.
"If you see an assault or harassment, it's your duty to stand up for your battle buddy, Family member or whoever may be a victim," Wynn said. "It's within our values, mission, and responsibility to stop these acts."
For victims and members who may not feel ready to speak with someone about an incident, another option is the DoD's Safe Helpline Mobile Application for iPhone or Android phones.
The app contains the option for users to record their current emotional state and create tailored self-care plans to address sadness, hopelessness and disconnection. These self-care plans include suggested resources and exercises, and can be stored for future reference. This includes a list of breathing, stretching and visualization techniques that can reduce anxiety, depression and symptoms of post-traumatic stress.
Users can connect with live sexual assault response professionals via phone or anonymous online chat from their mobile devices for support. The Safe Helpline mobile app is for short-term self-care and is not to be used as a substitute for professional medical advice or a mental health treatment plan, Wynn said.
"Every victim is different and some may not be ready to cope with someone over the phone," Wynn said. "This is a tool to help them start the process."
The DoD Safe Helpline Mobile App is free and available for download from the Apple app and Google Play stores.
For more information, contact Master Sgt. Tamika L. Wynn at (703) 805-4718.