Being in the military gives me a unique perspective on the world. Military folks end up being about 1% of the total population – I had no idea what a rare viewpoint I can have on certain things, especially when it comes to social issues like preventing sexual assault.
With my military career, I have been fortunate enough to travel all around Minnesota. For 3 years, I was stationed in St. Cloud and ended up taking a few classes at Saint Cloud State University. In my first semester, I was automatically enrolled in a mandatory online course for something called Not Anymore. It’s a 90-minute presentation with quizzes throughout that teaches students about recognizing signs of and preventing sexual assault on campus. It was clear to see that the purpose of this was to educate everyone on the different types of harassment and assault, certain factors (like drugs or alcohol) that can increase risks, and give resources for students who had more questions or were survivors of sexual assault.
Similar to movements like this on college campuses, the Army crated a program called I. A. M. Strong. In true military fashion, this is actually an acronym for Intervene, Act, and Motivate. The purpose is to get Soldiers to recognize the signs prior to an assault happening, actively get the perpetrator to stop their actions, and simultaneously motivate all Soldiers to do the same thing. I was required to attend an 80-hour course called SHARP (Sexual Harassment and Assault Response & Prevention) in Viriginia in order to be able to instruct this program to our Soldiers. There is an annual requirement for all Soldiers to attend this training, which keeps them updated on the latest and greatest techniques used by perpetrators as well as new ways to intervene.
I don’t find the similarities between these two programs to be very surprising. College students and Soldiers are connected with a unique sense of community – each group has something in common that sets them apart from the rest of their social networks. For instance, a college student has a different bond with a fellow college student, compared to a co-worker or family member.
My question is this: Is it working? With programs like this in place, it is difficult to tell if a rise in sexual assault reports is because more students or Soldiers are getting assaulted, or because the reporting process is more accessible so the survivors are using it more frequently than before. Personally, I don’t think the programs have been in place long enough to answer that question. That brings me to my next question: What do we do in the meantime?