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Posted 12/19/2014

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By Vince Little
USACE


WIESBADEN, Germany – U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Europe District has placed renewed emphasis on its Sexual Harassment and Assault Response and Prevention program in an effort to promote awareness and simplify reporting procedures for personnel at its headquarters, area and resident offices across the Continent.

While SHARP remains a top Army priority, leaders say it’s not sufficient to simply be mindful of the problem – all civilian and military personnel should stand ready to intervene when situations dictate a response or action.

“Sexual assault used to be a silent crime. It’s still a silent crime, in some ways – a lot of it is not reported for whatever reason,” said Raelene Hampton, Europe District’s Equal Employment Opportunity office manager. “A shift in thinking and a shift in what we do about sexual assault must change. … Do something. Don’t just turn the other way anymore.

“The new shift in thinking tells you that it works when you say something or do something. If you can safely do that, you should.”

Sexual-harassment incidents among the district workforce are essentially non-existent, and there haven’t been any assault reports, said Col. Matthew Tyler, the Europe District commander.

According to the results of a recent command climate survey, 126 out of 127 respondents believe the district’s working environment is safe from sexual assault and harassment. Tyler said all personnel indicated they feel protected where they live.

However, a large portion stated they did not know how to report an incident and thought the district’s SHARP program needed to be highlighted more overall, he added.

“Even though we don’t have a problem within the district, our employees need to recognize this issue, and they need to be aware in the event they witness something, so they’ll know how to report an incident and who the contacts are,” the colonel said. “Our senior leaders in Europe District support an environment that is free of sexual assault and sexual harassment. The rest of our Army and Corps of Engineers leaders feel the same way. I would encourage our workforce to hold the same values and take that same disdain and contempt for sexual assault and sexual harassment and apply it to their personal lives.”

According to the Department of Defense’s Confidentiality Policy, sexual-assault victims are offered two reporting options: restricted and unrestricted.

By filing a restricted report with a SHARP specialist or health care provider, an individual can disclose the sexual assault without triggering an official investigation and still receive medical treatment, advocacy services, legal assistance and counseling. All communications and conversations remain private, except in very rare circumstances. Meanwhile, the same support services are available through an unrestricted report, but it will activate command involvement and law enforcement measures.

If you find yourself a victim of sexual violence, seek medical treatment first, Hampton said. Reporting opportunities will transpire afterward.

“The U.S. Army has long been recognized as a great equalizer in America,” Hampton said. “We believe that providing all federal employees, civilian and military members an environment free from discrimination and basically being safe from sexual harassment and assault is important. I feel this is the key toward a successful district and mission.”

Employees learn about the Army’s SHARP program and proactive measures through required annual training, she said.

“It gives examples of what it looks like, how the employee can individually and collectively prevent it, and what and where to go if you’re involved as a witness or victim,” she said.

Tyler said “bystander intervention” has become a major SHARP topic in the past year as the discussion evolves from individual prevention and personal accountability to playing a more active role.

“If you observe certain behaviors, it’s best that you intervene at a much earlier point to keep some situations from getting out of hand,” he said.

Even though sexual-assault incidents among the district workforce aren’t problematic – based on historical data, Hampton says the Corps of Engineers isn’t unlike other workplace environments when it comes to the alternate concern.

“No district is exempt from sexual harassment,” she said.

Salty jokes and language or racy images and cartoons in office cubicles could be construed as offensive by colleagues, Hampton said.

“The person who put it up might not think anything of it,” she said. “It’s a learning curve – people just need to be reminded it’s not always appropriate for the workplace and others may be offended.”

Tyler says it’s critical to create a culture of respect, prevention and action with regard to SHARP throughout the Army and USACE.

“It is everybody’s responsibility,” he said. “All of us have this personal responsibility to promote an environment of dignity and respect that’s free of sexual harassment and sexual assault, whether it’s in or out of the workplace.”

Hampton and other officials recently created a SHARP poster tailored for the district, with interchangeable Velcro spaces for local points of contact at installations hosting the agency’s 28 different offices.

Her message to the workforce?

“Take the training seriously, particularly the prevention of and what to do in a sexual-assault situation,” she said. “Be informed, know what to do and where to go; don’t turn away and think someone else is going to do something upon an incident you’ve witnessed.

“Do your fellow employee a favor as well, even if it’s your boss. Tell them you don’t appreciate his or her inappropriate and offensive language, jokes and emails. … Check yourself, too. You’ll actually be doing everyone in the workplace a favor.”

HOW TO REPORT AN INCIDENT AT USACE EUROPE DISTRICT

In sexual-harassment cases, a civilian must contact the Equal Employment Opportunity office within 45 days of the alleged incident to initiate a discrimination complaint. If the harassment is ongoing, the most recent incident must have occurred within 45 days of contact with the EEO office. To report an episode, contact EEO office manager Raelene Hampton at raelene.k.hampton@usace.army.mil, DSN 570-2831 or 0611-9744-2831.

Personnel in Wiesbaden may report a sexual assault by calling Rolando DeLeon, the SHARP coordinator on Clay Kaserne, at 0162-296-6741. Help is available around the clock. Employees in all other field offices should go through the Defense Department’s Safe Helpline at 001-877-995-5247. The service is confidential, anonymous, secure and available 24/7 worldwide. For more information, visit www.safehelpline.org/.

bystander intervention Col. Matthew Tyler command climate survey EEO equal employment opportunity Europe District Raelene Hampton restricted report Safe Helpline sexual assault sexual harassment Sexual Harassment and Assault Response and Prevention SHARP U.S. Army Corps of Engineers unrestricted report Vince Little