3341562 One former SHARP NCOs thoughts on sexual assault

Soldiers from Camp Arifjan release dozens of balloons marked with various words of encouragement and sexual harassment assault response and prevention terms April 1, 2017 as a symbol of solidarity. (Army National Guard photo by Sgt. Kelly Gary, 29th Infantry Division Pubic Affairs)

By: Jake Hughes

Matt Lauer. Roy Moore. John Conyers. Al Franken.

These men have all been in the news lately, and not for anything good. They have all been accused of sexual harassment or assault. Now, I’m not trying to virtue signal or anything, nor am I saying I’m in any position to cast stones, but it’s just baffling to a man like me who doesn’t even like to touch people period, let alone without their permission, how someone could do such a thing. And these are not stupid kids doing stupid things (not that that’s an excuse). These are powerful men in prominent positions of power, who must know better! Maybe that’s it? Maybe it’s a case of power corrupting?

But that can’t be all of it, as these kinds of things are done by “normal” people, too. And as much as we would like to ignore it, it does happen in the military, as well. As we are a cross-section of the American people, we have scumbags in our midst like anyone else. The Department of Defense reports that in Fiscal Year 16 alone, more than 6,000 service members were involved in claims of sexual assault.

Now, the different branches have different programs to handle such things. In the Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard, they have the Sexual Assault Prevention and Response, or SAPR. The Army, because we just have to be different, has the SHARP Program; Sexual Harassment and Assault Reporting and Prevention.

I was actually a SHARP NCO at my last unit.  As the Company SHARP rep, my job was to be a victim’s first stop. I told them where they could get help, and how they could handle reporting. Basically, if you tell A, B, or C person, it’s what’s called a “Restricted Report” which means the only people who will know are doctors, chaplains or counselors, and the commander. If they told X, Y, and Z person, it’s “Unrestricted” which means it becomes public knowledge and the police get involved. The basic difference is if you want privacy versus prosecution.

For a guide to reporting a sexual assault as an active military member, click here.

Thankfully, I never had to perform my duties as a SHARP rep. No one ever reported an assault to me, which is a good thing. I volunteered for the position because I feel passionately about this topic. In my humble opinion, sexual assault and rape are two of the worst crimes imaginable. To act upon someone who does not consent to such actions is deplorable and disgusting.

There have been a lot of these creeps exposed recently, from politics to Hollywood to media. And sadly, it doesn’t look like it’s slowing down.  Due process must be upheld, but if even the allegation of inappropriate conduct is enough to ruin careers, maybe we’re turning a corner as a society. It won’t be a fast process, but together, we can change the culture.

Yeah, I know it sounds like a Saturday morning cartoon moral, but it’s true. Simple, common sense rules are, in my opinion, the way to prevent sexual assault from happening. Respect people’s boundaries. Remember that other people are just that: people. Human beings with their own thoughts and emotions, exactly like you.

There’s a saying in the Army that, “If you wouldn’t do it in front of your Command Sergeant Major, don’t do it at all.” It all goes back to the Golden Rule: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.

So, that’s it, really. To the type of people that would do these sorts of horrendous acts, this will fall on deaf ears. I hold no illusions that one piddly little article by some schmuck on the internet is going to change a lifetime of bad programming. But to the rest of you, respect your fellow man, be excellent to each other, party on, dudes, and thank you for reading.

Connect: @JakeTheArmyGuy | Jake@connectingvets.com

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