• SHARP speaker focuses on prevention efforts

    • email print
  • Stephen P. Kretsinger Sr. | Combined Arms Center
    The U.S. Army Sexual Harassment/Assault Response and Prevention Academy hosted its first professional forum of the new year Jan. 31 in Marshall Lecture Hall at the Lewis and Clark Center. The event was entitled “Shift Happens: Shifting Paradigms from Response to Prevention” and featured guest speaker Dr. Dorothy Edwards, president of Alteristic Inc.
    The purpose of the event was for attendees to gain insights from a sexual assault prevention and response professional working in an academic setting. It was attended by current SHARP Academy students, university partners and Fort Leavenworth community members. The forum focused on how to adjust tactics when tackling prevention as opposed to the successful strategies used for response.
    “The question we need to constantly ask is ‘How can we best help those who have already experienced one of these forms of violence?’” Edwards said. “As such, all of our original paradigms and frameworks for engaging our communities and thinking about these issues were through the response lens. As the field pivots toward building comprehensive prevention strategies, we need to revisit some of these foundational paradigms that still guide us to see what new tools need to be developed to ensure we are equipped to address both response and prevention.”
    Edwards covered five paradigms of response, which she noted have been successful, and suggested five alternatives to apply to prevention. The first response paradigm is awareness and knowledge of the issues of sexual harassment and assault.
    “We can’t address these issues if we don’t know they’re there and the impact they have,” Edwards said. “When we started doing prevention, we continued to do presentations that were based on awareness with statistics, definitions and survivor testimonies. I suggest action for the prevention paradigm. For prevention to work, we need to mobilize people to take specific actions to reduce the likelihood that violence happens.”
    The second paradigm for response is focused on the individual, or as Edwards put it, “If I only help one person, I’ve made a difference.”
    She suggested a broader way of thinking on the prevention side.
    “On the prevention side, it has to be vast numbers,” Edwards said. “One or two people can’t change the culture and mobilize prevention across an organization or community.”
    For the third paradigm, Edwards said, response is reactive, where prevention needs to take a proactive approach.
    “We need to focus on steps we take before an incident happens to shift the culture,” Edwards said.
    The fourth paradigm for response is external mandate. This refers to policies and punishments already in place concerning sexual assault and harassment.
    Page 2 of 3 - “These policies say, ‘We don’t care if you agree or not; if you break these policies, there will be consequences,’” Edwards said. “There has also been a mandate around training. People are training because they are mandated to do their annual requirement. Prevention can’t be mandated. You can’t mandate that someone care about this issue. We suggest perusing intrinsic motivation.”
    The final paradigm in response is focusing education on victims and perpetrators, but this approach ignores a majority of the population.
    “Our training has generally been focused on telling men, ‘Don’t be a perpetrator,’ and essentially telling women, ‘Don’t be victims,’” Edwards said. “On the response side, we do need to speak to those two populations, but on the prevention side if you only speak to an audience as if they are a victim or perpetrator, you lose most of them because they think, ‘That’s not me.’ The alternative paradigm is to speak to them as change agents, allies or bystanders. Let them know they are part of the solution.”
    Edwards founded Alteristic Inc. (formerly Green Dot, Etc), a center dedicated to effective intervention and prevention of power-based personal violence seven years ago. Initially established with a goal of equipping colleges and universities in effective strategies to reduce sexual assault, dating violence and stalking, Alteristic has since trained more than 450 colleges and universities across the country. Under Edward’s direction, Alteristic’s work has expanded to include development and implementation of prevention programs in high schools, middle schools and communities, and on Navy, Army and Air Force installations.
    Edwards is currently working on prevention approaches with the Department of Justice Office on Violence Against Women’s campus program, the Department of Defense and the U.S. Air Force. She is also currently adapting the prevention framework to other forms of violence including self-directed violence (suicide) and workplace harassment.
    “Currently, the Department of Defense Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office and the Army SHARP program are both taking a focused look into our prevention efforts,” said Col. Christopher Engen, director of the SHARP Academy. “We are fortunate in that Dr. Edwards is a highly qualified expert currently contributing to that work at the DoD level. Hearing her perspectives on shifting from a focus upon response to a focus upon prevention is vital, not only to our efforts at the SHARP Academy, but to all of us within the Army as we try to reduce and ultimately eliminate incidents of sexual harassment and assault.”
    The SHARP professional forums are open to everyone, and attract attendees from a variety of communities and organizations.
    “The SHARP professional forums are open to a wide audience ranging from Academy students to anyone on Fort Leavenworth,” Engen said. “We are seeking to increase and promote shared understanding between community professionals and all of us within the Army. We seek speakers who are leaders within this field to come share their knowledge and perspectives.
    Page 3 of 3 - “We appreciate the great support we receive from across Leavenworth and within the region,” Engen continued. “Attendance at these events continues to grow. It’s exciting to see. We are strengthening partnerships — not only within our Army community — but partners in academia, law enforcement and the medical community.”
    For more information on the SHARP Academy, visit http://usacac.army.mil/schools-and-centers/sharp-academy.
  • Comment or view comments