ROTC addresses sexual assault, harassment, prejudice in Army

Kathryn Monsewicz

Clad in full uniform, Kent State’s Army ROTC cadets hustled into the Governance Chambers Wednesday to take a break from their military drills and tactics to address something that is an unfortunate occurrence in the military as in society: sexual harassment, sexual assault and discrimination.

Cadets go through mandatory Sexual Harassment/Assault Response and Prevention (SHARP) training annually. 

“Sexual assault we know has been an epidemic throughout our society,” Capt. Joshua Donecker said. “The Army tries to be at the forefront to educate and provide the knowledge (of sexual harassment and assault) and how to report it.”

The military defines sexual harassment as any unwanted sexual behavior or advancement, be it nonverbal or verbal, or fostering a climate of such, Donecker said.

Types of sexual harassment in the military include a “quid pro quo” advancement, where one person might do a sexual favor for another to get something he or she wants.

Another type is having a hostile work environment. 

The environment the cadet creates while he or she is in command is important. When cadets graduate, they will become officers in the Army. Their job is to set and correct environmental conditions that people adapt to appropriately.

“I hope they understand their own decisions on how they are going to foster their command climates when they are in charge,” Donecker said.

Sexual assault is defined as physical contact done for sexual gratification. In the military, sexual harassment and assault apply both to other soldiers, the civilians a soldier interacts with and soldiers’ families.

“Even if it happens once in the military, it is too much,” Donecker said.

Consent is a touchy, hard-to-define gray area, Donecker said. The age group of those most likely to be predators, and victims, is between 18 and 24 years old —  the typical age range of college students. Just because a person is impaired by alcohol or is not conscious does not mean he or she gives consent.

SHARP training is for students to understand how to report and “shut down” sexual misbehavior or misconduct if they see it happening, Donecker said. To respond to sexual harassment or assault, a cadet should always talk to the SHARP representative in his or her unit.

“This kind of training is important to make sure that people understand how seriously the military takes this type of thing,” said Cadet Daniel Henderson, a senior public relations major, after the presentation.

“The military is not a flawless place. There are some bad apples in the bunch, and those bad apples can only be weeded out if people are willing to step forward and hold them accountable.”

As the military acknowledges and works to prevent and respond to sexual misbehavior, Donecker said everyone must acknowledge their own prejudices through the Equal Opportunity program.

The EO program ensures fair treatment of all persons regardless of race, gender, ethnicity, etc. and bases a cadet’s potential on merit, fitness and their capabilities as a soldier.

Donecker said that all people are prejudiced to some degree. We are socialized by society and media to have prejudices whether they are conscious or subconscious.

Some cadets may say that, in the military, all they see is “green,” meaning all people are seen as equal. Donecker instead stressed that people should celebrate their individuality and diversity to get away from groupthink.

Groupthink is a practice wherein groups make decisions together that chips away at creativity and individual responsibilities.

There are resources cadets should use if they have problems with sexual harassment, sexual assault or affairs in equal opportunity, freshman political science major and cadet Blake Bishop said. 

SHARP training and the EO program are important, Henderson said, because they help cadets understand how “to rectify situations that place them in harm’s way,” as well as recognize what makes them feel uncomfortable and what “degrades unit readiness.”

“If something were to happen, not everything falls on you,” Bishop said. “There are people who can help you out like other officers, the EO officer, the SHARP representative.”

Kathryn Monsewicz is the military and veterans reporter. Contact her at [email protected].