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NEWS | Sept. 10, 2021

SHARP class teaches Soldiers deployed to Camp Buehring: 'Change the paradigm of consent'

By Sgt. Andrew Peck 3rd Medical Command (Deployment Support)

The 3rd Medical Command (Deployment Support) Sexual Harassment and Assault Response and Prevention unit victim advocate held training for Army Reserve Soldiers of the 1493rd Medical Detachment - Combat Operational Stress Control at Camp Buehring, Kuwait, on Aug. 18.

"I've been involved in victim advocacy in the Army for about 10 years. I first became an equal opportunity leader back in 2010. At that point, victim advocacy was a part of the equal opportunity program,” said Army Reserve Capt. Michael S. Douglass, 3rd MCDS. He focused this required quarterly training on the consent paradigm.

Douglass said that he was strongly influenced by the “Can I Kiss You Project,” which strives to make asking for consent the norm in a dating relationship.

“Being a father of two daughters, this subject is close to home,” he said. “When you think about it in our society today, not necessarily the military, but our general society today, the assumption is that it is okay to touch somebody until they say, ‘No’,” he said. “The onus of the action is on the person being touched to say no, not on the person wanting to do the touching.”

“For example, the assumption is that it’s okay for me to reach out and touch you in a sexual fashion until you say no,” he said. “I'm saying that we need to flip that paradigm on its head; I need to ask you permission. May I touch you? May I hold your hand?"

The captain shared some personal experiences in the class, such as his first date with his wife—which was the first time he asked the girl if he could hold her hand, and her melting at the fact he had the respect to ask her and that she knew he really liked her.

"What it should be is, ‘I really like you. I'd like to hold your hand,’ like I shared the story about my wife on our first date,” Douglass said.

Army Reserve Maj. James Mathues, officer in charge of the 1493rd clinic here, said that he was grateful Douglass deployed to Camp Arifjan, Kuwait, and that he traveled here to give his Soldiers the class.

“We needed our training for the quarter, but also to make sure that we have a climate here that is respectable and that people understand their responsibilities,” he said.

The major said that he has been to many SHARP trainings since 1990 and that Douglass' presentation was outstanding.

“We had pretty good involvement,” Mathues said. “This is the third time someone has been by from the office to introduce themselves and reinforce the commitment to SHARP.”

Army Reserve Spc. Jacob O’Connell, one of the 1493rd COSC Soldiers, said he enjoyed Douglass’ class.

"I definitely like the format better because, like the presenter, I hate PowerPoints,” the Middleburg, Florida, native said.

The behavioral health technician, or 68 X-ray, said that he had attended 10 SHARP trainings, and that this one was special. "The poem in the beginning, I've never seen before. It was very powerful and moving, so I'm very appreciative of it,” he said.

Douglass said he started in the equal opportunity program and recently switched to SHARP.

“When they stood up the SHARP program, they pulled the sexual advocacy part away from it, but there was still victim advocacy as far as the equal opportunity [program],” he said.

“As far as becoming a VA in the SHARP program is concerned, it was a natural transition for me, and I was asked to do that this past October,” the Grantham, New Hampshire, native said.
Douglass said his passion is for teaching.

“There’s a lot I love about teaching,” he said.

He likes seeing students sitting in the audience nodding and understanding when they get it.

“I love it when I'm able to put a point out there and have somebody tell me after the fact, how they can see that that would apply to their life or situation, and that they can put it into action,” Douglass shared.

Knowing that he has made a real difference in how people see things is the payoff, he said.

“I find that very rewarding, very fulfilling,” he said. “If I know there is one person in that group whose life I have changed or improved or helped in some fashion, that’s a good thing.”