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Sexual harassment and sexual assaults do happen, said Sgt. 1st Class Sharoder Bonhomme, sexual harassment and assault response and prevention representative with 4th Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division, Task Force Patriot. This year alone, the Army has dealt with over 500 cases.
The Armys SHARP program gives Soldiers victimized by sexual harassment and assault a source to seek justice and closure. Unit representatives across the Army provide an easily accessible way for Soldiers to discuss the host of resources available to them to do just that.
Were people who depend on each other, and we cant create conditions where you have inappropriate or even threatening behaviors. It all goes back to treating people with dignity and respect, said Lt. Col. Michael Acord, deputy commanding officer, 4th BCT, 10th Mtn. Div.
For Soldiers who are sexual harassment victims, SHARP prescribes two types of reporting: informal and formal.
Informal complaints do not require any official forms and according to the SHARP programs website, there is no statute of limitations on presenting one. Most of the time official files are not created and the cases are not officially reported up the chain of command. Because of this, informal complaints are only recommended for incidents where the problem can most likely be solved with a mediated discussion between the perpetrator and the victim.
Soldiers wishing to file a formal complaint have up to 60 days after the date of the incident to see their SHARP rep. A DA Form 7279 is filed and once submitted, an investigating officer is appointed and performs a full investigation to be completed and reported back to the complainant within two weeks.
For victims of sexual assault, they have the choice of making either a restricted or unrestricted claim.
Restricted claims of sexual assaults are registered either with a units SHARP representative, a medical provider or a chaplain. Like informal complaints, no official investigation takes place and all reports remain confidential. Additionally, the Soldier is granted access to services like medical care and counseling.
The Army places the care of the victim paramount but reminds Soldiers that because of the confidential nature of restricted reports, the assailant will not be charged under the Uniform Code of Military Justice. Additionally, no action can be taken to separate the victim from their attacker if they are in the same unit or share billeting after a restricted report is made.
But unrestricted reports immediately spark an official investigation into the crime. The injured party is still afforded the same resources for care as with a restricted report and the information of the assault is limited to those who have a need to know.
Unrestricted reports are also initiated through law enforcement channels as well as the SHARP representative, heath-care provider and chaplain. Due to reporting procedures though, any report made through law enforcement will be considered unrestricted.
The Army holds concerns that there are Soldiers not reporting sexual harassment and assaults due to perceived stigmas or because of the bizarre nature of the situation theyve experienced. It is the SHARP programs duty to comfort Soldiers and let them know their situation may not be as unheard of as they think and that they are not alone.
Bonhomme also encourages reporting incidents because she knows the ongoing effects of dealing with the trauma of an assault alone can become more damaging the any feared stigma.
If a Soldier is holding something like that in, it creates a hostile work environment. Morale and the Soldiers work effort goes down and it can lead to suicidal thoughts, said Bonhomme of Alma, Ga.
For more information on the Armys SHARP program visit www.testsharp.org.