The Army is revamping its method of recognizing, preventing and rooting out sexual assault and harassment. The Association of the U.S. Army (AUSA) reported last month that the path forward was determined after the service studied more than 80 recommendations put forth by the Independent Review Commission established earlier by Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin.
“The first step is recognizing that when we talk about people and mission, which sometimes often we do, that’s a false dichotomy. We have to build into our mindset that people are the mission,” James Helis, director of the Army Resilience Directorate, told an audience during a recent AUSA webinar. “Sexual assault and sexual harassment in the military … are behaviors that split unit cohesion, that harm soldiers, and they just cannot be tolerated within the military. They’re just so contrary to our values.”
The second part of the change, Helis said, would involve the way the Army’s sexual assault/harassment prevention program is organized. Advocates and sexual-assault response coordinators on posts no longer would report to base commanders. Instead, they would reveal their findings to a senior sexual assault response coordinator. This person would be outside of the chain of command, but still able to provide information to the post’s senior commander.
Additionally, Helis is calling for establishment of a “prevention workforce” who would be trained in specific capabilities and skills not necessarily available at many installations.
Helis wants to “provide this prevention system through a dedicated workforce,” capable of conducting “listening sessions. They can be eyes and ears and collect information for commanders, for leaders, on what’s happening at their installation, to inform how commanders go about in an integrated way of creating healthier communities, more positive climate and taking better care of soldiers,” he said.