GRAFENWOEHR, Germany — Two members of the USAG Bavaria community who work with victims of sexual assault received awards for their efforts at the 2017 Sharp Professional Forum held in Wiesbaden, Germany Thursday, April 27.
Sgt. 1st Class Alberta Cole, the Sexual Assault Response Coordinator with 18th Military Police Brigade was acknowledged as Sexual Assault Response Coordinator of the Year for 2017. She has worked in this position since 2012, and this was the second year in a row she has received this award.
“I work with our victims of sexual assault and sexual harassment.” Cole began. “I go to every installation visiting our Soldiers. We have cases on every installation. It’s craziness, I know, but we do.”
Cole brings 22 years of military experience to the position, along with a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice and human services.
While Cole is dedicated to her work, she is aware of the difficult aspects of her position.
“For me the hardest part is knowing we are still doing this to one another,” Cole said. “You are hurting your family.”
Despite the time and effort to stop sexual assault, it remains a problem across the military, Cole said. There is still a large portion of victims who hesitate to come forward due to feelings of shame, fear and thinking they might not be believed.
Kathy Johnson, Cole’s civilian-employee counterpart, was awarded the Victim Advocate of the Year for 2017. She was a victim advocate for 2nd Cavalry Regiment when she accepted a promotion to serve as the SARC for USAG Bavaria.
Johnson received a master’s degree in work force education and development from Valdosta State University. Prior to working in the area of victim’s advocacy, Ms. Johnson worked in law enforcement. Johnson was an instructor at the Navy’s police academy in Kingsbay, Georgia.
“I volunteered to attend the Navy’s — they have a sexual assault and prevention response program,” Johnson said. “I took their training, so that we would have a victim advocate among our instructors.”
Often, the people who hurt Soldiers can be the ones in their unit — their “battle buddy” — Johnson said.
“Regardless of rank, the majority of our victims are new to the unit, or new to Germany,” Johnson said. “It’s the people they are supposed to trust that are often the people who end up hurting them.”
While both positions can overlap, Cole works more directly with assault victims — mainly Soldiers — while Johnson works in the area of education and training.
Johnson and Cole agreed on many aspect of sexual assault, specifically that ninety percent of sexual assault cases involve alcohol.
In addition, many instances which involve enlisted personnel occur due to fraternization, or the improper mixing of ranks, they said. A newly- promoted Soldier may not feel comfortable socializing with a new group of peers.
There are two types of reported sexual assault. An unrestricted report of sexual assault is a report that will be investigated. The command is notified. In a restricted report, there is no investigation, no command notification. A person who requests either type of report is eligible for services such as counseling and referrals for medical and legal help.
Following an assault, the SHARP office can guide victims and help them find treatment and counseling.
When asked what they have become more aware of over time, Johnson said she has seen a rise in the number of male-on-male assaults. Men can also be more resistant to reporting an assault.
Because of the change in demographics, such as more women and diverse nationalities, SARC has diverse groups of people working as SARC representatives.
People still need to come and accept that this doesn’t just happen to women, it happens to men, too,” Johnson said. “And they need victim advocacy and care just as much as a woman does.”
Both Johnson and Cole spoke of trying to change the culture and how hard it can be. The closing comment of Johnson summed up the mission of SHARP best.
“I tell them, stop hurting each other. Treat each other with dignity and respect, and please, put me out of a job.”
For more on the Sexual Harassment and Assault Response and Prevention program, and your SHARP resources at USAG Bavaria, visit the SHARP page, or call DSN 475-8149, CIV 09641-83-8149/8148. The Sexual Assault Hotline number is DSN 475-4567, CIV 09641-83-4567.