EXCLUSIVE: Hawai'i National Guard responds to military sex assau - Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL

EXCLUSIVE: Hawai'i National Guard responds to military sex assaults

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) -

Hawaii National Guard commanders say they have no tolerance for anyone who treats fellow soldiers or airmen without dignity or respect.  The Guard's track record indicates their policies and programs are working.

"Hawaii Army National Guard is 'ohana, so you know, we don't attack our brothers and our sisters. That's just not how it works," said Sergeant Major Kate Arizo.

SGM Arizo credits the SHARP program, "Sexual Harassment Assault Response Prevention," for keeping the Hawai'i Guard's soldiers and airmen safe.

"Last year we had less than 1% incident and we haven't had an incident since last July.  So, it's had a positive impact. I can say with pride that our soldiers are working this program," said SGM Arizo, who oversees SHARP, which has been in place for the past three years.

The year-round training program features three tiers of outreach and education for senior leadership, units as a whole, and all individual guardsmen. 

Victim advocates, like Sergeant Wienee De Guzman, are positioned in every unit.

"I take this to heart. I care about our soldiers," explained Sgt De Guzman.

She and other UVA's (Unit Victim Advocates) receive 120 hours of specialized training to assist survivors of harassment and assault.

"It's a tough job, but we need people like us to keep our soldiers going and to really empower them and let them know – there is help out there and not to be discouraged," said De Guzman.

SGM Arizo supports the Military Justice Improvement Act, which would remove commanders from the process of deciding whether sex assault cases go to court martial.

"We need to have neutral parties that are looking at the situations. The Hawaii National Guard uses independent investigators. We will bring investigators from the mainland and we have trained investigators that go to the mainland for other cases, so we try to keep it as neutral as possible in order to protect both the accused and the victim," described SGM Arizo.

Local leadership says the Hawaii Guard has created a safe space for victims, in part, by issuing swift, severe consequences for sex offenders.  

"Our Adjutant General, General Wong, has made it very clear that this will not be tolerated.  And the previous incidents that may have happened within the Hawaii Guard, those individuals are no longer in the Guard. So, they're taking it very seriously.  And our soldiers and our airmen see this and they know they are protected, and that it's okay to come forward and speak up.  We will thoroughly investigate any situation that comes about."

Follow Mileka Lincoln on Facebook: facebook.com/MilekaLincoln.HNN or on Twitter: twitter.com/MilekaLincoln

Related Link:

Rep. Gabbard on military sex assaults: "there are predators who wear the uniform"

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