SHARP Dilemma: Army’s Response to Rising Assaults.
Intervene. Act. Motivate. These are the words that the Army’s SHARP program preaches to all leaders and soldiers, new and experienced. If these words are what embody the SHARP program, then why are SHARP incidents rising in the Army?
In the most recent annual Department of Defense (DoD) report of sexual assault in the military, the Army recorded the most reported assaults out of the military.
Challenges in Prevention and Action:
The Army reported 2,706 assaults, up 8.4% from the previous year’s total of 2,497 assaults (Cohen & Browne, 2018). For the Army, these results cause concerns about what is being done or not done in prevention and action from leaders across the force. The same DoD report also stated that even though there was an increase in assaults, it actually showed improvement in the sense that soldiers were actually reporting their cases instead of not saying anything about their assaults. It was found true that now 1 in 3 service members were choosing to report their sexual assaults compared to 1 in 14 ten years ago (Ferdinando, 2018). If soldiers are becoming more confident in reporting sexual assault, then why does it continue to happen?
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Leadership’s Role and Accountability:
I believe this falls heavily on the NCO Corps and the officers appointed over us. More soldiers are acting and coming forward about their assaults, but is there any motivation to take action really being taken against the accused? Cases are being reported, but fewer are being referred to courts-martial because commanders are moving towards having to use administrative action and discharges for accused offenders. Due to changes in the Uniform Code of Military Justice, it becomes increasingly difficult to gather the evidence needed for certain cases to actually find justice for the victims. Thus, this leaves commanders to use what they can and enforce the laws to the offenders with discharges and administrative action (Schogol, 2018). A rise in reporting is only useful if it leads to justice for the victim.
Fostering a Culture of Trust and Accountability:
As leaders, it is our duty to protect, correct, and have genuine care for the junior enlisted soldiers who fill our ranks. Prevention relies on leaders and the accountability of every soldier. It is each soldier’s responsibility to learn, intervene, act, and motivate each other to be masters of the Army’s SHARP program. We cannot have an Army free of sexual assault if we first do not have each other’s backs. The Army must learn how to tackle the battle at home before tackling the battle elsewhere.
Although SHARP cases are rising throughout the Army, I feel as though we are making little progress toward making victims feel more comfortable with them coming forward and reporting their offenders. As a whole, the Army can ensure and instill confidence and trust in the victims by actually providing them with more consistent and accurate prosecution for their cases instead of not getting a sense of justice. None of this can happen unless leaders, NCOs, and junior enlisted soldiers all come together and provide an environment that gives pride and hope toward a safer Army.
- Schogol, Jeff. “More Sexual Assaults Are Reported In The Military, But Fewer Cases Are Going To Trial.” Task & Purpose, Task & Purpose, 29 Dec. 2018, taskandpurpose.com/fewer-sexual-assault-cases-are-going-to-trial.
- Ferdinando, Lisa. “DoD Releases Annual Report on Sexual Assault in Military.” U.S. DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE, 1 May 2018, dod.defense.gov/News/Article/Article/1508127/dod-releases-annual-report-on- sexual-assault-in-military/.
- Cohen, Zachary, and Ryan Browne. “U.S. Military Sees Spike in Sexual Assault Reports.” CNN, Cable News Network, 30 Apr. 2018, www.cnn.com/2018/04/30/politics/dod-sexual-assault-report-2017/index.html.