Sexual harassment, assault training better prepares victim advocates

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Just as first responders need to know how to help an injured person, Sexual Harassment/Assault Response and Prevention sexual assault response coordinators, victim advocates, victim representatives and program managers also need to know how to help a person seeking support.

Recently, U.S. Army Cadet Command provided training to coordinators and advocates during the SHARP Program Improvement Forum at Palma Hall for that reason. During a three-day event Feb. 27-March 1, participants learned the ins and outs of being a SHARP representative in Cadet Command.

Denise Hudson, SHARP program manager for the command, said the training served several purposes.

“We held this event to provide relevant training for our SHARP professionals and to provide continuing education to units that will be applied toward their re-credentialing, which is required every two years,” she said.
“The goal of this training is to make sure we further their professional development and to assist them and give them additional tools
to go back and more efficiently perform their duties.”

Hudson said there are some differences in handling SHARP incidents with active Army members and those involving students/cadets.

“I wanted to make sure everyone has a clear understanding of Title 9,” said Hudson. “Title 10 is the active duty side of the house and Title 9 will apply to our cadets at the universities. Title 9 goes through the sheriff on campus. They have the authority.”

Instructors also focused on taking care of caregivers, or self-care, said Hudson.

“In this field, there’s burnout and quick turnover because of the empathy involved and nature of the work,” Hudson said. “We are giving them tools to recognize stress and identify burnout and things to do to offset while we are still continuing to provide services to our clients.

“For example, you need to be getting enough exercise, sleep, and have a healthy balance of work to relaxation,” she continued. “If not, it can cause you to have anxiety, stress or depression, so you want to make sure you take care of yourself.”

There was also an educational benefit of the forum for participants aside from the knowledge gained during the event, according to Hudson.

“They must have 32 continuing education units to be qualified and maintain their credentialing to go out and provide services. If they aren’t credentialed, they can’t go out and provide services,” she said. “The National Organization of Victim Advocates awarded us 21.5 continuing education units to go toward their requirement for 32 units, so we are very excited about that.”

Sergeant 1st Class Misty Nolan, with Cadet Command’s 8th Brigade at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington, said she went out of her way to interview for her position.

“I looked at it as an opportunity outside of my job as a [Human Resource Specialist] to do something to enhance my skills, learn a new job, and I thought it would be a rewarding job to help people who were victims of sexual assault or harassment. I’ve had Soldiers in my formation who have dealt with sexual harassment,” said Nolan. “I just finished the Army’s 80-hour foundation course, then coming here and learning the cadet side of it, I have a better understanding of how cadets and participating students’ situations are dealt with. It’s a little bit different than regular Army Soldiers.

“I’m going to take it back, build my skill sets and go out and try to do the best I can for the colleges, the programs and the cadets,” she added, “and hopefully help eliminate sexual assault and harassment altogether.”

Hudson said one way to make that easier is to make connections and relationships before a situation arises.

“Get to know who your advocate is. Advocates need to let people know who they are as well,” she said. “Don’t just get to know them when an incident happens; get to know your people, coworkers, peers, before an incident happens so they can be comfortable to come to you.” n