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Increase in sex assault reports credited to awareness

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Posted: Wednesday, April 30, 2014 4:30 am

Reports of sexual assault and harassment may be up on post, but Fort Hood’s top prevention advocate believes it can be credited to better training and awareness, not an increase in attacks.

“I think it’s access,” said Lt. Col. Jacqueline Davis, SHARP program manager.

In fiscal year 2012 the Sexual Harassment/Assault Response and Prevention program operated within the equal opportunity office and there were only seven individuals at Fort Hood trained to receive a sexual assault report. That year 100 cases were reported.

“Many people did not know how to find those individuals unless they found themselves in an emergency room,” Davis said. “For so long, there had not necessarily been an easy means for it to be reported, nor had their been a process in place to know as a victim: ‘I won’t be revictimized.’ ... There’s a culture change as well.”

Now under III Corps, the program has more than 800 trained people embedded within units who are able to receive a report, help soldiers get treatment and follow the case to justice.

“We are the liaison to help them throughout the process,” Davis said. “We make sure they are aware of all agencies that are there to help and support them through the entire process. We make sure if it’s something ongoing, such as sexual harassment, that it stops.”

The change in the program was initiated in 2013 and reports nearly doubled to 189, Davis said. She added not all of these reported assaults occurred on post. About 60 percent occurred somewhere other than Fort Hood. The SHARP program helps soldiers dealing with any sexual assault, even if it took place before they put on the uniform.

For fiscal year 2014, 89 assaults were reported so far.

Trust through support

Sgt. 1st Class Christopher J. Clay, SHARP representative for the 11th Signal Brigade for the past two years, said he makes an impact on soldiers by showing that he cares. His longevity with the brigade has allowed him to build trust through proven support, he said.

Trust is built he said “purely by the actions of the victim advocate and myself as the sexual assault coordinator. Being known as someone who will act and respond on their behalf has worked to build trust.”

To get the word out about these embedded SHARP representatives, training was increased post-wide, to include what is and isn’t acceptable behavior.

“Engaged group discussion is the best formula I have found,” Clay said of beneficial training. “It brings perceptions and cultural ideas of individuals out in the open. The interaction and thought provoking discussions between soldiers has far more training value than just a slide show about the subject.”

Davis said training can simply be educating people and breaking down what they learned as a child.

“Some people had a cultural upbringing to accept what happened as part of nature,” Davis said. “It’s not part of nature, it’s illegal. It’s not acceptable actions for someone to touch you in a sexual manner.”

To learn more about Fort Hood’s SHARP program go to www.hood.army.mil/SHARP/ or call 254-319-4671.

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