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Army continues to aggressively push sexual assault prevention, response efforts

Email   Print   Share By C. Todd Lopez, Army News Service
May 16, 2013 | Across DoD
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In this file photo, a female drill instructor checks on her troops in formation. The Army’s Sexual Harassment/Assault Response and Prevention program aims to put a stop to sexual assault within the Army. Courtesy photo
WASHINGTON - Army surveys show that Soldiers are more willing now to report they’ve been the victim of sexual assault, but the service is still not happy with its efforts to eliminate such crimes within the ranks.

“It’s hard to capture a single emotion,” said Secretary of the Army John McHugh, addressing lawmakers on Capitol Hill, May 8. “All of us, we’re frustrated, we’re angry – but what we aren’t is dissuaded from continuing the fight and meeting the challenge. This is so contrary to everything upon which the Army was built.

“To see this kind of activity happening in our ranks is heart-wrenching and sickening,” McHugh continued. “We’ve tried, and will continue to try, to approach this at virtually every level.”

To increase our effectiveness in addressing sexual assault, Army leaders are aggressively enforcing the Army’s Sexual Harassment/Assault Response and Prevention program while implementing new initiatives announced May 7 by the Department of Defense, said Carolyn Collins, director of the Army’s SHARP program.

“The Army’s portion of the Department of Defense Annual Report on Sexual Assault for fiscal year 2012 shows increasing effectiveness in combating sexual assault,” Collins said. “However, we realize there’s still more work to be done to combat sexual violence. The Army will continue to work with DoD to ensure Army efforts align with the DoD Strategy and the Secretary of Defense initiatives.”

Under-reporting of sexual assault remains a national issue and is also a challenge for the Army. However, Army surveys show that between 2009 and 2012, female Soldiers’ “propensity to report” having been the victim of sexual assault has increased from 28 percent to 42 percent. That increase means Soldiers are more comfortable with their chain of command and are more willing now to report both the crime traditionally thought of as rape, as well as other examples of unwelcome physical contact of a sexual nature.

While both the Army and the DoD believe the increase is a positive step, the Army is moving ahead on efforts to bolster its SHARP program by embedding more than 800 additional full-time positions across the Army, Collins said.

As part of the fiscal year 2012 National Defense Authorization Act, Collins said, there was a requirement to man two full-time positions per brigade – to include a Victim’s Advocate and a sexual assault response coordinator.

“We have the manpower requirements to meet current FY12 NDAA legislative requirements and are meeting the requirements with an interim brigade military SARC and VA manning,” Collins said. “In FY12, we programmed full-time personnel assets for FY14-18 as we transitioned from a contract supported program to a government program.

Leaning forward in this effort, the vice chief of staff of the Army directed commands to begin hiring in FY13.”

There are also full-time “special assault investigators,” as part of the U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Command, referred to as “CID,” to investigate sexual assault crimes, as well as special victims prosecutors who only address sexual assault crimes.
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