Fort Sill invites civilians to SHARP Summit

Fort Sill invites civilians to SHARP Summit

FORT SILL, Okla._The Army is using a using a new tactic to combat sexual harassment and assault from the ground up.

Fort Sill held its first ever SHARP Summit at the Reimer Conference Center. The military acronym "SHARP" stands for Sexual Harassment Assault Response and Prevention.

Civilians, media, law enforcement, university officials and government, all gathered in one room to talk about how they can learn from each other and work together to stop sexual harassment and what to do when it does happen.

There were victims who had experienced sexual assault both in the Army and in our community.  However, due to the nature of what was being said, and out of privacy and respect to the victims, media was not able to stay for those testimonies. Major David Freeman is the Installation Sharp Representative and hopes the victims' stories will add perspective for the program.

Major Freeman says, "Very few of these folks in the room have ever heard from a victim tell their story of how they were assaulted, and that's going to hit them emotionally and that's going to create some buy in."

First, Fort Sill Commander Major General John Rossi says we have to recognize that we have a problem.

Major General John Rossi states, "The 'we' is to you as well we have a problem we see it every day walking into the door of the Army, the Army is a reflection of the society. "

The Army brought in a variety of professionals who can shed some light on how to deal with the topic. All there to better our community awareness.  Like Dr. Tanya Lowery who deals directly with victims at Oklahoma State University.

"What we want to do is understand and learn best practices and take that back. One of the things I get the opportunity to do today is talk about some of the things that we're doing at Oklahoma State University. So, hopefully again, what we do, the military can use and vice versa," said Dr. Lowery.

The military is taking multiple steps to eradicate sexual assault and violence including more training right out the gate.

Major Freeman says, "As soon as they get off the bus that's the first thing we have our criminal investigation do is come over and talk to them. A lot of times things that are normal in the civilian world, where they come out of high-school or they come out of college, aren't acceptable to our Army values."

Major Freeman says the conversation can't happen just once a year during training.

"Then it becomes just another training event and that's what we got to get passed, and that's why we have a lot of junior leaders in there because they're the ones that talk to our soldiers every day and are going to help us solve the problem," said Major Freeman.

And if the problem isn't solved there is no way the Army can be combat ready.

Major Freeman goes on to say, "A unit is a unit where everyone trust one another, and if you have a unit based on trust, sexual assault can't thrive there. It just can't."

When asked where does the Army go from here?

Major Freeman said, "We must maintain the Army values trust, loyalty, duty, and not leaving a falling comrade behind."

Fort Sill had a total of 106 reports of sexual assault in 2014. It's important to note that the reports can vary in severity and some of the incidents reported at Fort Sill may have actually taken place at another duty station.