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NEWS | April 17, 2024

Army's SAAPM Emphasizes Unity and SHARP Program Enhancements

By Spc. Taylor Gray

FORT SHAFTER, Hawaii -- As the Army once again recognize April as Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month, its approach to addressing sexual harassment and assault within its workforce continue to adapt to incorporate insights gained in previous years.

This year’s SAAPM theme is "Change Through Unity: Empower. Protect. Prevent," underscoring the importance of unity in combatting sexual assault and promoting respect and empowerment for everyone. It also emphasizes the collective responsibility of Army Team members to create supportive environments and actively prevent sexual assault and harassment.

Building on the theme of "Change Through Unity" which highlights the collective responsibility in combating sexual assault, Matthew McMurray, USARPAC SHARP Program Manager, emphasizes the ongoing enhancements in the Army's SHARP Program and the strides made towards providing enhanced support to survivors of sexual violence during SAAPM.

“Given the changes underway to the Army’s SHARP Program, SAAPM is a great time to highlight the strides being made to provide enhanced support to survivors of sexual violence,” said Matthew McMurray, USARPAC SHARP Program Manager.

The changes, initiated in response to the Independent Review Commission 2021 report recommendations and subsequent guidance from the Secretary of Defense, emphasize prevention and victim support. The Army is reorganizing the Sexual Harassment/Assault Response and Prevention (SHARP) to bolster preventive measures and provide enhanced support to victims, ensuring they receive comprehensive treatment and resources for recovery.

The SecDef mandated the creation of a dedicated primary prevention workforce to address overlapping risk factors for harmful behaviors like sexual assault, domestic violence, and suicide. These positions will utilize data-driven public health strategies for prevention efforts. Additionally, SHARP programs at installations are hiring prevention specialists to serve as liaisons between SHARP and the Integrated Prevention Advisory Group, concentrating their efforts on preventing sexual harassment and assault.

A new standalone regulation, AR 600-52, was published at the end of last month. This regulation brings several changes, including the expansion of full-time SHARP staff, a shift towards a joint "purple" structure, and enhanced mentorship for professionals. Moreover, the responsibility for SHARP will no longer rest solely on the chain of command; instead, it will be primarily managed by a newly restructured centralized system.

“This is about professionalizing the force. People who are seeking assistance or services get help from people that are trained, educated and experienced,” said Abigail Cutter, SHARP Compliance Specialist.

Soldiers and leaders can rest assured that the ongoing updates aim to enhance professionalism, competence, and support within the SHARP program. These updates include the addition of full- time personnel and improved oversight to ensure SHARP professionals receive necessary mentorship and guidance, enabling them to excel in victim advocacy and their roles overall.