The stigma of reporting sexual harassment and assault cases is something WSMR Army Community Service representatives wish to dispel during a unique upcoming community training event. SHARP program manager Cindi Drake, and ACS director Patsy Gomez have worked together to help plan the installation’s first day-long SHARP Summit, April 11.
Rather than a standard video presentation or slideshow training, Drake said this training will focus on community feedback. Over 130 GS-14 and E-8 employees were chosen to be a part of the first summit. The summit will begin with a “Leaders Leading the Way” 5K Run/Walk. The group of individuals will then be separated into three different groups. Group one will focus on legal updates: process and procedures. Group two will focus on command climate and trust. Group three will focus on case studies. The groups will meet in three 50 minute sessions throughout the day to discuss topics related to their group.
“Most of the (standard) training is someone talking at you, we want to hear your concerns and suggestions,” Drake said. “We want it to be more of a forum or a dialogue session.”
The WSMR leadership will lead the discussions within those groups. WSMR’s Staff Judge Advocate Lt. Col. Michael Wong, 2nd Engineer Commander Lt. Col. James Koeppen, 2nd Engineer Command Sgt. Maj. Devardy Arnold, a representative from the Criminal Investigation Division and Drake will lead discussions in the first group. Garrison Commander Col. Brian Michelson, Garrison Command Sgt. Maj. Jesus DeGracia, and WSMR Executive Director Paul Mann will lead the second group. WSMR Commander Maj. Gen. Gwen Bingham, WSMR Command Sgt. Maj. Jimmy Sellers, and Test Center Director Col. James Winbush will lead the third group.
“They’ve made sure this is going to be effective and hits the mark. The way their leadership is driven, they believe in this. I think we’re lucky that they’re not just giving us lip service,” Gomez said of the WSMR leadership.
The idea of the summit is to be able to address sexual harassment and assault prevention at the lowest level. Drake said the ultimate goal of the SHARP trainings and summit is to empower individuals to report when they feel something is inappropriate. Drake said if individuals don’t stand up to the individuals committing the harassment it acts as an endorsement to the individual.
“Don’t be complacent. Who do you expect to stand up for you if it were directed at you,” Gomez asked.
“If they think they can get away with sexual harassment they will push to assault. Individuals who are allowed to get away with this behavior seldom have just one victim,” Drake added.
The idea for a summit came about during a Command Summit that the WSMR Leadership attended. A zero tolerance policy has recently been adopted Army wide. The policy applies to any employee who falls under the command leadership, including contractors and Non-Appropriated Funds employees.
Aside from the summit and yearly mandatory SHARP training, individuals can gain a greater understanding of the issues by volunteering to be victim advocates for SHARP victims within the installation. In order to qualify to be a victim advocate, individuals must be a GS-9 or an E-7 and obtain supervisor approval. Volunteers must attend a two week training at Fort Bliss. After proper training, the individuals will then be assigned to a week out of the month to be on call. The volunteer then becomes the advocate for whomever he or she assists initially, unless there is a conflict of interest.
“Your job is to provide advocacy. It’s really whatever the victim needs,” Gomez said.
WSMR Command Sgt. Maj. Jimmy Sellers has worked as a certified victim advocate. Sellers also served as a victim advocate for his fellow Soldiers during a deployment. From his experience, Sellers said that in order to prevent these types of acts from occurring it is key and vital that the leadership be relevant and remain educated on current policies, procedures, and best practices.
“I’m very proud of the fact that the leaders of WSMR have taken a unique and proactive approach in order to get after this issue,” Sellers said. “We are absolutely committed to promoting dignity, demonstrating respect and enforcing a standard of zero tolerance for any violations against the SHARP program.”
The summit will end with a summary of results within the group discussions. From the final report on the summit, the leadership will discuss how often the summit should be held and key actions should be taken to address issues and concerns.