U.S. Army Installation Management Command is recruiting and hiring new sexual assault response coordinators and sexual assault victim advocates as part of the Army’s expanded Sexual Harassment/Assault Response and Prevention program.
IMCOM will hire 135 people by October in support of the SHARP program, according to Ebenezer Williams Jr., the IMCOM SHARP program manager.
Lt. Gen. Mike Ferriter, the IMCOM commander, exempted SHARP staff from an Army-wide hiring freeze Jan. 29, calling them mission critical.
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. It cripples the overall operation … and will be dealt with swiftly within the command,” said Rufus Caruthers, the IMCOM director of Equal Employment and Opportunity.
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.
After Oct. 1, 2013, only armed forces members and Department of Defense civilian employees may be assigned to SHARP positions, according to the act. After that time, there will be no contracted staff.
The act also made changes to training and certification for SHARP personnel. “It is a requirement come Oct. 1, 2013, if you are not credentialed, then you cannot respond to a victim of sexual assault,” said Sergio Perez, Fort Sam Houston 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 D. 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. But after Oct. 1, any ACS victim advocate must have SHARP training and credentials to respond to a case of sexual assault, she added.
ACS Family Advocacy Program personnel will continue to respond to victims of domestic and child abuse incidents.
For more information, visit www.safehelpline.org, the sexual assault support line for the overseas DOD community.