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Sexual assault is an issue that has been tormenting the U.S. army for a long time. Since 1991, there has been an alarming rise in the number of assaults that have hurt the troops’ morale.
Despite multitudes of training, briefing, and policies, one would see that the harassment cases haven’t come down yet. A likely reason for this development is that the victims now feel more confident about reporting the crimes committed against them.
The Army had made considerable progress since the launch of the SHARP, a proactive program in 2005. SHARP stands for The United States Army Sexual Harassment/Assault Response program. It’s an integration of the SAPR (Army’s Sexual Assault Prevention and Response) and POSH (Program and Prevention of Sexual Harassment).
The objective of this elite program is to make the U.S. Army less prone to sexual harassment and assault.
As part of the SHARP Program, the Army continues to reinforce its commitment to eliminating sexual harassment and sexual assault through:
This unique program is designed to address violent behaviors on time and prevent them from escalating into more serious crimes, thus protecting the army values. It has full-time staff at brigade and higher levels and has a social media presence on Facebook and Twitter.
Until now, the Army has spent millions of dollars on this program, and as of 2021, there is talk of redesigning it.
In light of valuable recommendations made by the Fort Hood Independent Review Committee, the Army decided to modify certain policies. The Army will restructure the U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Command as per the reports.
The current Secretary of the Army John Whitley signed Army Directive 2021-16 with an aim to refine the Sexual Harassment/Assault Response and Prevention program. This new directive will be taking inputs from the FHIRC report to implement new recommendations and changes.
Whitley has ensured that a Soldier’s report of sexual assault or harassment will always be met in a timely manner. Furthermore, the Secretary assures that the sexual assault and harassment victims will be given protection and treated with dignity throughout the case proceedings.
The directive includes provisions to improve the issuing of military protective orders as well as the process through which sexual assault victims are notified of their cases. Furthermore, commanders must now appoint investigating officers for sexual harassment claims from outside the brigade-sized unit to which the investigative subject is assigned.
This directive’s requirements, which go into effect immediately, apply to the regular Army, the Army National Guard, and the United States Army Reserve. It must be noted that the Army is taking steps to adopt each of the FHIRC report’s 70 recommendations.
Despite the fact that the FHIRC report concentrated on the command climate and culture at Fort Hood, the results have implications for the whole Army and its more than 1 million Soldiers.
Going by the news reports, one more significant change is underway in the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ). Also, as of July 2021, the SHARP training is provided before the Initial Entry Training (IET).
Presently, things are looking up, but the Army must continue to improve and reform as time goes on. Constant policy changes, reports on improvements, protection of victims, and transparent trials are needed. At the same time, every soldier must be educated properly.
Since the Army is the nation’s largest workplace, tackling sexual assault in such a place is vital to ensure a safer and more equitable workplace. This ensures the readiness, retention, and effectiveness of the military.
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