News: One-Stop SHARP Resource Center opens
Story by Staff Sgt. Miriam Espinoza
JOINT BASE LEWIS-McCHORD Wash. – One of the Army’s top concerns is ending sexual assault and harassment within its ranks.
JBLM helps victims by providing them with a central location to report sexual harassment and/or assault in confidentiality. The Nov. 5 grand opening of the Sexual Harassment/Assault Response and Prevention Program Resource Center provides victims of sexual assault and harassment with a safe place get help.
The center is the first of its kind across the Department of Defense and represents a partnership between the JBLM Sexual Harassment/Assault Response and Prevention Program, Madigan Army Medical Center, Criminal Investigation Division and the Staff Judge Advocate.
Victims receive resources and services in one location from a team of expert providers dedicated to helping victims navigate the medical and justice systems.
According to Lt. Col. Stephanie Johnson, SHARP RC manager, I Corps, “Having these resources in one location helps victims feel more comfortable as they do not have to go to different locations and tell their story multiple times.”
Although there are Sexual Harassment/Assault Coordinators at the brigade level, the resource center gives the Soldiers an opportunity to step outside their brigade’s influence to seek help.
“Often times soldiers feel more comfortable coming forward to someone outside their unit,” said Staff Sgt. Cynthia Velarde, Victim Advocate, SHARP Resource Center. “We are here for the victim. We are not here to judge, but to advocate for them.”
The center’s victim advocates are on active duty; however, they wear civilian clothes to make the soldier feel more at ease when speaking to them. This helps the victim relax and provides a sense of trust, added Velarde.
“The center is not just for victims who want to make an official report, they can stop by even to talk to a counselor,” Johnson said. “The SHARP RC is a safe place for the victim to get the help they need to begin the healing process.”
“We offer victims confidential help and the options to file a report, whether it’s unrestricted or restricted,” added Master Sgt. Tisha Guliford, SHARP RC NCOIC, I Corps.
An unrestricted report will open an official investigation to follow up on the victim’s report. A restricted report gives the victim an opportunity to get counseling and medical help without starting an official investigation.
According to DoD directives the Army’s Command Policy, the Sexual Harassment/Assault Response and Prevention Program reinforces the Army's commitment to eliminate incidents of sexual assault through a comprehensive policy that centers on awareness and prevention, training and education, victim advocacy, response, reporting and accountability. Army policy promotes sensitive care and confidential reporting for victims of sexual assault and accountability for those who commit these crimes.
Soldiers have to trust the person to the left and right with their lives and according to Lt. Gen. Robert Brown, commanding general, I Corps, trust is critical in every unit.
“There is no other profession where trust is more important and sexual harassment tears at that fabric of trust,” he said.
Help is also available for family members who are victims of sexual harassment and/or assault.
“They will be provided with the best service by a team of professionals who can answer any questions they might have while maintaining their confidentiality,” said Johnson.
“[Leaders at every level] must do everything in their power to make sure we put an end to this terrible epidemic,” Brown said. “Victim care is our number one concern.”
The center is open Monday through Friday from 7:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., and is located in Building 2027C. A 24-hour victim hotline is also available at 253-389-8469.