Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Prosecution is Pandering, not Influencing

Joseph Grenny, Co-Chair of VitalSmarts, speaks,
consults and writes about human behavior and how to change it.
 
 
ARTICLE: Sexual Assault in the Army: Focus on Prosecution is Pandering not Influence, 18 Jun, Forbes
SYNOPSIS: In 2009, an Army recruit in Afghanistan became the seventh victim of sexual assault of the same perpetrator. His first six victims filed only “restricted reports” which allowed the victims to get needed care but prohibited an investigation of their rapes. Since then, more than 100,000 of our nations finest have suffered similar abuse. In response, the Department of Defense has built enormous prosecutorial and investigatory muscle to hunt down and punish perpetrators. Strength and justice are necessary—but insufficient to eradicate the scourge of sexual violence in the Military. We certainly need to ask the question, “Where are the offenders?” We need to ensure every assault is investigated and perpetrators are punished. But if we want to influence real change, we also have to ask, “Why are they perpetrating?” Simply locking up offenders is akin to trying to reduce crime by increasing incarcerations. We’ve been trying that for a couple of decades and the jury is in: Americans are now the most incarcerated people in the world. And yet, we’re less safe than countries with much lower incarceration rates.

A recent article by Forbes contributor, Joseph Grenny, asks an important question so often overlooked, it is jaw-droppingly stunning to see it in print.


“Why are they perpetrating?”

Helluva good question, and one that is neither asked nor answered in the Army's Sexual Harassment / Assault Response & Prevention (SHARP) training. Oh, sure, we understand that rape is about an abuse of power. Rape is not about sex, or hormones, or pornography, or temptation, but only about the desire to use sexual violence to subjugate another human being. But those are the things we tell ourselves about “them.” What do perpetrators say about themselves?

Forbes’ Grenny observes that locking up offenders is necessary, but insufficient. That is a powerful observation that exposes a huge gap in the current approach to dealing with military sexual trauma (MST). It’s not enough to remove caught offenders from civil society. Why not? Well, except for the deterrent effect, removing caught offenders does nothing to prevent uncaught offenders from harming people. For proof, one need look no further than to the fact that rapes are continuing to happen within the military at rates that exceed those of society at large.

It’s impossible to prove the negative, and so we’ll never know how many rapes have been prevented by the SHARP Program. However, every US Army perpetrator caught in the past 2 years attended SHARP’s world-class training program before offending. Some perpetrators have even been through SARC / VA certification training before getting caught offending!  What is missing in the training that allows perpetrators to slide through, undetected? Are perpetrators simply using the training to learn how not to get caught?

Prosecution is Pandering, not Influencing

The title of the Forbes piece reminds me of the classic definition of leadership: the art of influencing people to do things they would not do on their own. A prosecution mentality merely sets the stage for a battle between a sociopath and the system. Where is the emphasis on self-examination of character? Where is the art of constructive criticism which is so important in the art of building each other up? Where is the commitment to improve one’s character through shared hardship and service to a great cause? Why are we not finding and remolding the perpetrators among us—before they offend?  In short, where is leadership in the equation?

Why do Army leaders seem to think that the way to influence sociopaths is to give them a PowerPoint classes over the Internet? We cannot help the Army identify and close the gaps in the SHARP Program until we coach them to first ask,  

“Why are they perpetrating?”

Just a thought—