The Army has selected Hawaii’s Schofield Barracks to participate in a pilot program aimed at improving efforts to curb sexual assault and harassment in the military.
The revamp of the Sexual Harassment/Assault Response and Prevention program, also known as SHARP, is based in large part on recommendations from the Fort Hood Independent Review Committee, which the Army formed after the murder of Spc. Vanessa Guillen, whose body was found after she went missing last year.
Her killing was one of several deaths and crimes that brought to light widespread leadership failures at the base, which has had high rates of sexual assault, harassment and other problems.
Schofield Barracks will be one of six bases participating in a yearlong program establishing a “fusion directorate designed to care for, protect and empower victims” by creating additional reporting mechanisms and coordinated support services that are independent of the immediate command, the Army said in a press release issued Friday.
The pilot program, which is part of the planned redesign of SHARP, is due to begin next year.
“Right now, we are in Phase I of the process and just building the capability to support the pilot program,” Army Garrison Hawaii spokesman Rick Black said in an email.
The Army launched SHARP in 2005 and has poured millions of dollars into the program, but it has been heavily criticized. Victim advocates often worked part time and held other military positions often deeply embedded in the chains of command of survivors and accused abusers in investigations and legal proceedings.
Military commanders rather than prosecutors have traditionally decided whether to convene a court martial. Spurred in part by the events at Fort Hood, recent congressional legislation created special prosecutors with the authority to convene trials outside the chain of command.
Guillen’s death became a rally cry for female service members and veterans who have long complained that the military wasn’t doing enough to address harassment and violence.
Hawaii Sen. Mazie Hirono, a senior member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said the new program was a positive development but more work needs to be done. Hirono previously worked with then-Hawaii Rep. Tulsi Gabbard in introducing Talia’s Law, which reformed how the military tracks and reports child abuse after the 2005 murder of 5-year-old Talia Williams at her father’s home at Wheeler Army Airfield.
“Bringing an updated SHARP program to Schofield Barracks using a survivor-centered model means that the Army is following through on its commitment to implement recommendations from the Fort Hood Independent Review Committee Report following Vanessa Guillen’s tragic murder last year,” Hirono said in an email. “Eliminating the scourge of sexual violence in the military is a top priority for me and my colleagues.”
The other bases included in the pilot program are the Aberdeen Proving Ground in Maryland, Fort Bragg in North Carolina, Fort Irwin in California, Fort Riley in Kansas and Fort Sill, Oklahoma.
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Kevin Knodell reported on the military and veterans for Civil Beat as a corps member for Report For America, a national nonprofit that places journalists in local newsrooms to cover underreported topics.