Supporting people who report sexual harassment or assault is one key way to end this type of violence in the Army, according to Sexual Harassment and Assault Response Program leaders.
“One common myth that prevents people from reporting sexual assault is that if they report it, they are somehow ‘bad’ or will be in trouble,” said Patricia Shepard, SHARP victim advocate at U.S. Army Garrison Wiesbaden.
It is similar with a person making a complaint of sexual harassment, Shepard said. “The myth is that they will be made fun of, when more often than not they are supported, and these reports are taken very seriously.”
Individuals can change the culture around reporting sexual violence by believing people who come forward and helping them get support and make a report, she said.
“If a friend comes to you to report harassment or assault, it is important to listen to them and support them,” Shepard said. “If this person trusts you enough to share this with you, it’s important to believe them. Soldiers are encouraged to report sexual assault within 24 hours but are not required to.” This allows victims time to process and learn more about reporting options.
Shepard, who has been with the Wiesbaden SHARP office since May, said her goal is to work with community partners and other SHARP professionals to create a culture that says sexual harassment and assault are not funny and will not be tolerated.
“I want the community to think of SHARP as a safe place they can come and talk about things that can often be very scary,” she said. “I want the SHARP program to be associated with respect, dignity and care.”
Each person in the community can make a difference by calling out obscene behavior when they see it, even if it’s not happening to them personally.
“You can talk directly to the person and ask them to cut it out,” Shepard said. “You can ask someone else to speak with that person, whether a colleague, supervisor or friend. If the behavior doesn’t stop, visit your SHARP office and we can help you.”
Contact the Wiesbaden SHARP office at (0162)296-6741 or DSN 53-SHARP (74277) 24 hours a day.
For information on reporting options, go to https://www.preventsexualassault.army.mil/.