Friday, August 23, 2013

New SHARP director says Army must defeat sexual assault to maintain public trust

Public trust in the Army is high. To maintain that trust, the Army must defeat sexual assault in its ranks.
Attribution: Photo and caption are from the original 22 Aug 2013 article by C. Todd Lopez at 

I just read this article and I find it encouraging. Cheers for Dr. Altendorf and the new Army SHARP Office!

Obviously bringing a General Officer-level leader to the SHARP helm raises program visibility--as well as  expectations. Fortunately, the increased attention is going to integration--horizontally with Provost Marshal General and Inspector General (as well as previously involved Criminal Investigation Command, Army Medical Command, and the Office of the Judge Advocate General), and vertically with the Department of Defense and through them with the other services. This portends well.

Lots more work to do, but the language of “defeat” sexual assault is much more productive than the unrealistic “eliminate.” I also like “maintain” trust which communicates that we are at risk of losing trust, not conceding that is already lost and must be won back. Subtle changes but powerful. We still do a lot of things right in the Army.

As a 28-year veteran, my heart burns about this problem, but I am not ready to hand the solution over to those who, like Sen. Gillibrand, would dismantle the Army to “save” it. God bless her for putting more pressure on the services, but her proposed solutions would be counter-productive in my humble and biased opinion.

Culture change is the goal, and the standard is when parents concerned about their children joining the Army are neutral on the  question of blue-on-blue sexual violence—not because the human beings in the military are suddenly angels but because rape is once again less likely to occur in the military than any other possible place where their son or daughter might go instead.  

Back in the old days, when the purpose of the Army was to fight and win our Nation's wars, parents’ biggest concern about sending their kids off to the Army was that their learning how to kill people, break things, and dodge bullets would scar them for life.  I am sure that some victims of military sexual violence would contend that not all scars are the same.

It is my hope that Dr. Altendorf will engage data-fueled, truth-seeking, action-oriented researchers and analysts to help solve this problem.

Thanks for reading.

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