Driving Changes to Combat Sexual Harassment in the Workplace

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On 23 September 2019, the Fort Knox Sexual Harassment Assault Response Program (SHARP) Office kicked off “Walking for 7,623+,” a week-long campaign as one of its community programs. The event intended to “make community members aware of the presence of sexual assault by cumulatively walking at least the number of laps that represent how many sexual assaults reported during the previous year” (Fort Knox SHARP, 2019). The campaign held at the Natcher Gym track, where each lap represented a reported sexual assault within the Department of Defense. For some, this was a testimonial walk for an event they wish not to remember, that may have affected them individually as a victim or as a friend or family member of a victim. For others, this was a physical fitness session, a place for duty, with a minimum number of laps already identified by the organization in which the individual belongs. Without background and understanding that each lap represents a name of a colleague to the left or right, a close friend, or family member, how do we truly understand how each lap represents a sexual assault that is preventable. Stopped if just saw the signs, stopped if we just dared to intervene.

Sexual harassment and assault are tragic events with substantial emotional repercussions for survivors, families of its victims, and responders that are brought in to intervene. According to the U.S. Army Fiscal Year 2018 Annual Report on Sexual Assault, reporting of unrestricted and restricted reports increased by 449 reported cases of sexual assault with a total of 3,155 reports filed in throughout the fiscal year (“Enclosure 1: U.S. Army Fiscal Year 2018 Annual Report on Sexual Assault”, 2019). Although this may seem like a high number, this does not necessarily mean that there is an increase in sexual assault cases within the Army. It shows that individuals are more comfortable with reporting. Still, this is a significantly different number compared to the 1,572 filed in the fiscal year 2012. Even more, these numbers reflect a military society where sexual harassment and assault still plague the organizations in which we serve. How do we, as an individual, interpret what is acceptable? On the one hand, society and social justice tell us that sexual harassment and assault are crimes and not right. On the other, our television, music, and video games demean and diminish the image of females. Putting any future intentions needs to consider personal perspectives and individual opinions. We know through training what the military’s stance is on sexual harassment and assault, but we have soldiers and civilians within our ranks that grew up with their own morales. Training is not the only avenue we need to look at when implementing change.

While my experience as a Religious Affairs Specialist with rules on confidentiality intermingled with involvement as an organizational SHARP Advisor within a previous organization may differ from others, this experience has only given me ideas on how to make the program more active within my current organization. Adding my own experience with sexual assault as a child and family that experienced incidents of rape, this experience has permitted me to view and comprehend the program’s intent with a personal worldview. Putting that experience toward methods of training and understanding the unique challenges that face our military in contemporary society provides a different perspective toward the SHARP in general. Adding how a mostly civilian-populated workforce can present unique challenges, experiences, and attitudes than a mostly populated soldier organization, show that there are areas in which we can place personal knowledge and expertise to make SHARP a program that means more.

When we discuss organizational changes, we first need to take note of how SHARP plays a role in our organizations. Although there are many vital roles when it comes to SHARP, overall, it starts as commander’s program with guidelines dictated in Army Command Policy (“Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Program”, 2014). So, when it comes to training and enforcement, commanders and leaders at all levels should be emphasized throughout SHARP events, and not just a note at the beginning of training events. We should not automatically hand training off to SHARP Advisors or Sexual Assault Prevention Representatives; leaders need to be a part of the practice. Too often, rank has designated one person’s option to attend large-group focused training. We can say that with position comes responsibility and requirements that most junior soldiers would not understand, but so does the absence of training that they are told by leadership to attend. If it is essential, should we not show to those within our organization that by frequenting ourselves, we are no different from others and demonstrate that SHARP truly is a commander’s program.

Maybe we should go back to the basics and emphasize the importance of the I. A.M. Strong campaign. As the first part of the “I. A.M. STRONG” campaign, organizations need to spend more time on the true meaning of Intervene and their role in bystander intervention. The modified mission statement to make it inclusive to our civilian counterparts of the SHARP should state, As the first part of the “I. A.M. STRONG” campaign, organizations need to spend more time on the true meaning of Intervene and their role in bystander intervention. The modified mission statement to make it inclusive to our civilian counterparts of the SHARP should state,

When I recognize a threat to my co-workers, I will have the personal courage to intervene and prevent sexual assault. I will condemn acts of sexual harassment. I will not abide by obscene gestures, language, or behavior. I am a member of a team. I will intervene. You are my colleague. It is my responsibility to stand up for you, no matter the time or place. I will take action. I will do what is right. I will prevent incidents of sexual harassment and sexual assault. I will not permit sexually offensive behavior. I will act. (“Mission and Overview,” 2014).

If we engage our workforce, including our civilian counterparts, and offer bystander intervention training, we can eradicate sexual harassment and perceived sexual harassment from the beginning. By motivating individuals to step in and take action, we are more likely to help colleagues and strangers from incidents that can increase to something more dangerous. Changing the individual perception that an innuendo or comment is allowed in the workplace, we open our organizations up to the possibility of actions further along the path toward acting upon comments.

Another program the Army should consider adopting is a program already a part of its arsenal of intervention skills. The Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training (ASIST) is a program developed by Living Works emphasis teaching suicide interventions skills to help a person at risk stay safe and seek additional help as needed by providing skills in intervention and developing a collaborative safety plan (“Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training (ASIST),” 2019). This training is a requirement for chaplains and religious affairs specialists, and many are certified trainers. By combining the knowledge from SHARP Leaders and teaching techniques from our Chaplain Sections and Unit Ministry Teams, we are halfway toward a program we can implement at organizations from battalion level and higher.

Emphasizing a leader’s role in training down to the junior soldier and civilian workforce member, we demonstrate that SHARP is a program that is taken seriously by our commands and that our involvement and understanding are essential. By highlighting intervention and acting as a form as part of our roles as bystanders, we re-focus our attitudes toward creating an environment of zero-tolerance. If we think back to the “Walking for 7,623+” and shift our mindset from remembering the seven thousand plus incidents of sexual assault to we could have prevented seven thousand plus incidents of sexual assault, may have a better perspective of how we can implement change.
Running five miles on three of the four days and eighteen miles on the fourth, I tried to run for times that I could have intervened. Forcing myself through the physical pain that, to me, is insignificant to the emotional, spiritual, and physical pain of those victims that I was remembering.


  1. Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training (ASIST). (2019). Retrieved 20 October 2019, from https://www.armyg1.army.mil/hr/suicide/training_sub.asp?sub_cat=26
  2. Department of the Army. (2014). Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Program. In Army Command Policy (AR 600-20). Washington, DC. Retrieved from https://armypubs.army.mil/epubs/DR_pubs/DR_a/pdf/web/r600_20.pdf
  3. Department of Defense. (2019). Enclosure 1: U.S. Army Fiscal Year 2018 Annual Report on Sexual Assault. In Department of Defense Annual Report on Sexual Assault in the Military: Fiscal Year 2018. Washington DC. Retrieved from https://www.sapr.mil/sites/default/files/DoD_Annual_Report_on_Sexual_Assault_in_the_Military.pdf
  4. Department of Defense. (2019). Department of Defense Annual Report on Sexual Assault in the Military: Fiscal Year 2018 (pp. 1-23). Washington, D.C. Retrieved from https://www.sapr.mil/sites/default/files/DoD_Annual_Report_on_Sexual_Assault_in_the_Military.pdf
  5. Fort Knox SHARP. (2019). Fort Knox preparing to kick off SHARP ‘Walking for 7,623+’ campaign Sept. 23. Retrieved 13 October 2019, from https://www.army.mil/article/226853/fort_knox_preparing_to_kick_off_sharp_walking_for_7623_campaign_sept_23
  6. Mission and Overview. (2014). Retrieved 20 October 2019, from https://www.sexualassault.army.mil/iam_mission.aspx

Cite this paper

Driving Changes to Combat Sexual Harassment in the Workplace. (2020, Oct 29). Retrieved from https://samploon.com/driving-changes-to-combat-sexual-harassment-in-the-workplace/

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