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NEWS | April 11, 2024

Empowering change: Understanding sexual assault awareness, prevention and response

By Jessica Hanley Department of the Army Criminal Investigation Division

April marks the beginning of Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM), a time dedicated to raising public awareness about sexual violence and empowering individuals to take action to prevent it. As we embark on this month-long campaign, it's crucial to acknowledge the gravity of the issue and the importance of fostering a culture of consent, respect, and support for survivors.

What is sexual assault?

Sexual assault is any unwanted sexual act without consent, involving actions like touching, groping, penetration, or rape. It violates human rights and can have severe consequences for victims. Addressing this issue requires prevention efforts, support services, and accountability for perpetrators to create safer communities and promote dignity and respect.

Army CID: A victim-centered agency

The victim-centered approach within the army (purview, context or nexus) prioritizes the rights, dignity, and safety of victims in preventing and responding to sexual exploitation, abuse, and harassment, emphasizing the unique challenges and dynamics present in military settings. This approach is critical regardless of the perpetrator's affiliation, highlighting the army's commitment to upholding the highest standards of conduct.

Army CID special agents, integral to the army's framework, are specially trained to support victims from the onset of a case, ensuring they receive the necessary resources and support. These resources are tailored to address the specific needs within the army community, including access to the Family Advocacy Program (FAP), the Army’s Sexual Harassment/Assault Response and Prevention (SHARP) Program, and Special Victims' Counsel through the Special Victims Investigation and Prosecution (SVIP) initiative. By integrating these specialized army programs, the approach reinforces the military's dedication to fostering a safe and respectful environment, underscoring the army nexus in safeguarding its members against sexual misconduct.

Army CID has evolved into a Victim-Centered Agency (VCA) to uphold justice and improve the welfare of individuals affected by crime. This shift is driven by the high volume of cases, including crimes against persons, drug-related crimes, death, and child abuse. Army CID's approach prioritizes victims' dignity, safety, rights, and well-being, ensuring they are not re-traumatized, and their needs are met throughout the investigative process. This approach aligns with the highest principles of honor and duty.

The VCA aims to restore victims' sense of security and autonomy, fostering trust and confidence in the military criminal justice system. It shifts towards trauma-informed care, empathetic, effective, and ethically grounded approaches. This initiative reflects Army CID's commitment to justice, empathy, and the well-being of the military community, serving as an example for other law enforcement agencies.

Preventing sexual assault

Over half of women and nearly one in three men have experienced sexual violence involving physical contact in their lifetime, according to the National Center for Injury Prevention and Control.

Preventing sexual assault involves a combination of individual actions, community support, and societal changes. Here are some key ways to prevent sexual assault:

- Education and Awareness: Promote comprehensive sex education programs that teach about consent, healthy relationships, boundaries, and respect from an early age.

- Consent Culture: Encourage a culture of consent where clear communication and mutual agreement are valued in all interactions. Teach people to recognize and respect boundaries, and to understand that consent must be enthusiastic, ongoing, and freely given.

- Empowerment and Self-Defense: Provide individuals with tools and resources to protect themselves, such as self-defense classes and assertiveness training. Encourage assertive communication and empower individuals to speak up if they feel uncomfortable or unsafe.

- Bystander Intervention: Educate communities about the role of bystanders in preventing sexual assault. Encourage bystanders to intervene safely and effectively if they witness concerning behavior, and to support and believe survivors.

- Support Services: Ensure access to comprehensive support services for survivors of sexual assault, including crisis hotlines, counseling, medical care, and legal assistance. Create safe and supportive spaces where survivors can seek help without fear of judgment or retaliation.

- Support Victims/survivors to Lessen Harms: Victim-centered services, treatment for victims, treatment for at-risk children and families to prevent problem behavior including sex offending (Source: National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, Division of Violence Prevention,

By combining these approaches and fostering a collective commitment to ending sexual violence, we can work towards creating safer environments for everyone.

Resources for prevention and victims

Sexual Harassment Assault Response and Prevention (SHARP): The Army's SHARP Program aims to end sexual harassment and assault within its ranks, serving Active-Duty Soldiers, Army National Guard, Army Reserve members, and adult dependents over 18. Certified SARCs and VAs provide 24/7 support for reporting and prevention efforts.

For more information visit: Army’s Sexual Harassment/Assault Response and Prevention (SHARP) Program:

Army MWR Sexual Harassment/Assault Response and Prevention Program (SHARP) page:

Special Victims Investigation Prosecution (SVIP): Services to victims in response to incidents of covered special victim offenses. Provides victims in response to incidents involving covered offenses with the following services:

- Assigns SVIP certified lead investigators

- Notifies victims of available resources

- Ensures that 24- and 48-hour SVIP member notifications are made

- Consults monthly with respective SVIP members

- Assigns specially trained prosecutors

- Provides victims with certified victim advocates