WHY SEXUAL HARASSMENT AND ASSAULT CASES CONTINUE TO RISE IN THE
SGT EKWELLE SARAH
BASIC LEADERS COURSE, CLASS 18-010
The Army’s Sexual Harassment / Assault Response and Prevention (SHARP) Program exists so that the army can prevent incidents of sexual harassment and sexual assault before they occur. Also, “it promotes an army culture and commands climate that ensures devotion to the army values; it ensures that every Army team member will be treated with dignity and respect at all times and in all circumstances” (DoDD 1350.2, Glossary; AR 600-20, para 8-3a). Some of the reasons there has been an increase in the number of cases reported because; thrust in the chain of command and military justice system, soldiers unsure if their actions are offensive, and new soldiers trusting too easily.
One of the reasons that the Army has seen such an increasing number of SHARP cases is because more troops and military civilians are gaining more confidence and trust in their leadership and military justice system in a situation that they report their incident. Soldiers and DOD civilians now believe if they come forward they will not have any blowback and the system which is in place is there to protect the victims. Thus, this has led many individuals to report these incidents, therefore, making the number of Sexual harassment and Sexual Assault cases to increase.
Secondly, soldiers are not exactly sure if some acts or some ways they act towards their peers could be considered Sexual Harassment / Sexual Assault. An example could be found in this situation, after PT in the morning when the soldiers were released, a male soldier saw this female running to her car, and he started screaming “hey, hey, beautiful, excuse me, hello, hello, uhoo.” I stopped him and asked, “What are you doing and told him you know she can report you for Sexual Harassment right?” His response was, “Of course not, I was not whistling at her or ‘catcalling’ her.” The fact that soldiers do not fully understand what exactly could be offensive or how to respect each other, or what not to say to each other that can be offensive, contributes to the growing number of Harassment or Assault claims in the Army.
Thirdly, soldiers who are either new to the army or new to their duty station feel the need to make friends or acquaintances show they belong. Besides, this turns them into trusting people too quickly and then they are easily prone to do what anyone tells them, so they are not considered an outsider. By them giving their trust quickly and wanting to belong to the new family they may have just made themselves vulnerable to getting assaulted or harassed, and also, they will not want to report their situations because of fear of being left out from the family they had hoped they would be close to.
In conclusion, norms have changed, some actions and behaviors that used to be considered innocent or “playful,” and “flirting” is no longer ok per Army standard. Soldiers must nurture an inclusive, understanding (be supportive), and respectful environment to build a friendly working atmosphere.