Colorado Springs Military Newspaper Group

Fort Carson Mountaineer

I. A.M. change — Sexual assault prevention starts with Soldiers

By Staff Sgt. Wallace Bonner

4th Infantry Division Public Affairs Office

An estimated 26,000 sexual assaults occurred across the U.S. military in 2012, which is roughly the number of Soldiers on Fort Carson.

That number, along with a host of other statistics related to sexual harassment and assault, was published in the Department of Defense Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office report on sexual harassment for 2012, released in May.

The report has led to increased scrutiny by Army leadership on its SHARP program and the changes needed to make sexual assault a thing of the past.

Fort Carson has implemented three key changes as a result of the latest report and DOD guidance, said Lt. Col. James Rouse, 4th Infantry Division Equal Opportunity program manager.

Rouse said as the first step the Army directed an active records check of all sexual assault response coordinators and victim advocates, the individuals who are the boots on the ground for the SHARP program.

“We must ensure that we have selected the right people to perform these vitally important responsibilities,” said Rouse.

The second step involved refresher training for all SHARP personnel, to provide the latest information regarding sexual assault and harassment prevention in the Army.

The third step provided leader engagement training focused on preventing and responding to sexual harassment and assaults.

“Leaders should immediately intervene, protect the victim, notify the police and contact the chain of command,” said Rouse. “The chain of command should involve their SARC or (victim advocate) in the response to ensure the victim receives the care they need and deserve.”

One statistic of note from the report indicated increased reporting of sexual assaults in 2012.

“While there was an increase in the number of sexual assault reports in the Department of Defense, this does not necessarily mean that there was an increase in the number of sexual assaults,” said Rouse. “Historically, sexual assaults are underreported. The increase in reporting of sexual assaults could indicate an increase in the confidence of sexual assault victims in the chain of command to respond to cases of sexual assault and hold subjects accountable.”

Following the release of the annual report, Army Chief of Staff Gen. Raymond T. Odierno issued an order for all units to conduct a Sexual Harassment/Assault Response Prevention stand-down day.

The 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team conducted its stand-down June 21 and Brigade Commander Col. Brian Pearl said the responsibility should go back into the hands of squad leaders so they, as first-line supervisors, can be the first line of defense against sexual harassment and assault incidents

“It’s about the environment, it’s about trust, and it’s about empowering our junior leaders,” Pearl said.

In addition to the new steps, the Army and Joint Task Force Carson will continue to use the I. A.M. Strong campaign to combat sexual harassment and assault.

The Army has used the I. A.M. Strong campaign, which stands for intervene, act and motivate, since the introduction of SHARP in 2008. The Army’s goal with the campaign is to take the focus off of the victim, and what they can do to mitigate the risk of a sexual assault happening, and put the focus on all Soldiers, to make them understand they have a respon­sibility to prevent sexual assault and harassment from taking place.

“Follow the ideas of the I. A.M. Strong Sexual Harassment and Assault Prevention Campaign plan by actively intervening to prevent sexual harassment and sexual assault,” said Rouse. “There are no innocent bystanders. If you observe sexual harassment or a sexual assault, it is your obligation to stop it.”

Army policy states that an environment where sexual innuendo and jokes are accepted creates a sense of positive reinforcement for sexual predators, and provides a type of camouflage, where their aberrant thoughts and behaviors will be less identifiable.

Soldiers who are victims of sexual assault can call the 24/7 hotline at 338-9654. Family members can call 243-7907, 24/7.

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