By JADE FULCE
U.S. Army Installation Management Command
U.S. Army Installation Management Command is recruiting and hiring new sexual assault response coordinators and sexual assault victim advocates by October as part of the Army’s expanded Sexual Harassment/Assault Response and Prevention program.
IMCOM will hire 135 individuals this year in support of the SHARP program, said Ebenezer Williams Jr., IMCOM SHARP program manager.
Lt. Gen. Mike Ferriter, IMCOM commander, exempted SHARP staff from an Armywide hiring freeze Jan. 29, calling them mission-critical.
“I am authorizing the hiring to continue … to ensure we continue to provide programs and services in support of critical missions, national security, safety of human life and the protection of private property,” Ferriter said.
The SHARP program aims to reduce sexual harassment and assault by creating a climate of respect for the dignity of every member of the Army Family. SHARP does this by trying to reduce the stigma associated with reporting an incident, increase prevention efforts and increase investigation and prosecution capabilities.
“Sexual harassment and sexual assault of any type will not be tolerated,” said Rufus Caruthers, IMCOM director of Equal Employment and Opportunity. “It cripples the overall operation. It will not be tolerated and will be dealt with swiftly within the command.”
Changes to the program came with the 2012 National Defense Authorization Act. The act requires all brigade-sized units, including IMCOM garrisons, to have at least one full-time sexual assault response coordinator and sexual assault victim advocate. Additional sexual assault victim advocates may be added, depending on demographics or unit needs.
Garrison SHARP programs can also offer victims an option and continuity of care if they choose not to use their command SHARP, said Williams. The senior commander on the installation is ultimately responsible for the program.
After Oct. 1, only armed forces members and Department of Defense civilian employees may be assigned to SHARP positions, the act states. No longer will there be contracted staff after that time.
The act also made changes to training and certification for SHARP personnel.
“It is a requirement come Oct. 1 if you are not credentialed, then you cannot respond to a victim of sexual assault,” said Sergio Perez, Fort Sam Houston (Texas) sexual assault prevention and response program manager.
Perez said the National Organization of Victim Assistance is responsible for credentialing all Army sexual assault response coordinators and sexual assault victim advocates.
In the past, IMCOM garrisons managed the sexual assault prevention and response program under the Family Advocacy Program in Army Community Service.
Col. Nancy Ruffin, director of the Army Family Advocacy Program manager and chief of Personal and Family Life Readiness branch emphasized that SHARP and FAP are two separate programs with different missions.
“ACS victim advocates are still providing assistance to any victim, whether of sexual assault or of domestic violence,” Ruffin said. After Oct. 1, any ACS victim advocate must have SHARP training and credentials to respond to a case of sexual assault, according to Ruffin.
ACS Family Advocacy Program personnel will continue to respond to victims of domestic and child abuse incidents.
Williams said in the interim there are collateral sexual assault response coordinator and sexual assault victim advocate at every installation.
For more information, https://www.safehelpline.org or call (877) 995-5247, the sexual assault support for the DoD community.