WASHINGTON – Army Sgt. 1st Class Josalette R. Simmons was recently honored by her service for her work in combating sexual assault at Fort Bragg, N.C.
She was chosen as the Army's Exceptional Sexual Assault Response Coordinator for 2013 for her efforts in transitioning XVIII Airborne Corps and Fort Bragg, N.C., from the Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Program to the Sexual Harassment/Assault Response and Prevention Program.
"I jumped into this position," Simmons said. "It was either sink or swim and lucky for me I was ready to swim. This is something I wanted to do because of my care and compassion in just trying to make a difference for someone who has suffered through sexual assault."
Beginning in May last year, Simmons and a fellow noncommissioned officer pulled 24-hour duty for nearly two months while the brigade's 525 sexual assault response coordinators, or SARCs, transitioned. During that time Simmons and her teammate manned the 24-hour sexual assault hotline.
Together, the two NCO's partnered and collaborated with senior corps and installation staff to develop a plan that made the transition move rapidly forward. The plan called for an additional 249 SARCs.
Simmons also examined program examples from around the Army. Her efforts included consulting with other Sexual Harassment/Assault Response and Prevention Program, also known as SHARP, specialists and equal opportunity personnel to determine best practices and adapt them to the needs of the Fort Bragg community.
On her own time, Simmons completed a two-day course in rape crisis sensitivity, which allowed her to volunteer as a rape crisis volunteer for Cumberland County, N.C. Because of those efforts, she was made a member of the Cumberland County Rape Crisis Board.
"Sometimes there are servicemembers who are sexually assaulted off-post, and who decide they don't want to report it to the military installation for whatever reason," Simmons said. "The victim could also be new at the base and may not have received word as to what services are available to help them.”
The partnership with Cumberland County, she said, “is really beneficial, and they'll inform the victim about SHARP. One thing SHARP can do is offer a victim an expedited transfer, for example.”
The crime of soldier-on-soldier sexual assault “breaks your trust," Simmons said.
"A lot of victims are young soldiers who have left home for the first time and they come in thinking they're going to be part of another, bigger family,” she explained. “Then this happens; it's almost as bad as being sexually assaulted by someone from your own family -- just breaks that bond of trust."
Simmons was also cited by her commander for establishing a SHARP leader development program that provides twice-monthly continuing education and training for SHARP specialists as well as senior leaders.