Special to GUIDON
“I think what the Army is doing is good, but the big thing I would like to see us do is move from training to education,” Donna Ferguson said during the Sexual Harassment/Assault Response and Prevention Academy’s professional forum July 25 in the Lewis and Clark Center’s Marshall Auditorium at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas.
Ferguson, U.S. Army Military Police School Chief of Behavioral Science Education and Training Division, travels nationally and internationally speaking, teaching and educating in the field of behavioral science.
“There’s a difference between training and education and I think we haven’t grasped that yet, we call everything we do training,” Ferguson said.
The forum topic was “Sexual Assault Prevention Vulnerabilities.” Ferguson said she specifically wanted to focus on the cognitive behavioral impacts of offenders that hinder the ability to prevent sexual assaults.
“What I’m really saying there is that we think we know people, because we interact with them, but the truth of the matter is that we really don’t necessarily know them,” Ferguson said. “It’s hard to believe that these people can be that (offenders).
“How often do we see that? Where you see someone and you’re like, ‘not them, but they were nice, they were kind, they were caring, they were gentle, they were really good at what they do, they had the perfect character,’” Ferguson said. “People struggle with that.”
Ferguson said to be able to facilitate change, people have to first understand the psychology of why the offender does what they do.
“We’ve got to understand what was behind it because if we understand what was behind it, we know how to help prevent,” Ferguson said. “And to better educate potential victims or society as a whole in the prevention process, we have to move from training to education.”
Ferguson said that training is systematic and doesn’t work to change adult behavior because it doesn’t change cognition, or how adults think.
“If you’ve been trained to do something you only have one response to it,” Ferguson said. “But when you’ve been educated, you now have a toolbox that you can pull from. Education is evolution that gives you a depth of insight so that when different types of challenges come, you’re still able to work them out.”
Ferguson said that her greatest passion and joy is to see people live healthy lives and that’s why she travels around the world to educate others in her field.
“I do what I do because I want to see people whole, I want to see us live in a mentally healthy society,” Ferguson said.
The SHARP professional forums are a quarterly event organized and hosted by the SHARP Academy.
Although aimed at the students at the academy and the SHARP professionals in the community, the forums are open to and attended by leaders and community partners from across the installation and in the local area said SHARP Academy director Col. Christopher Engen.
“Really, this is meant to be a community event so we welcome all,” he said. “We are always looking for recognized experts within this field to help us expand our collective understanding and our knowledge, and we’ve been very fortunate to benefit from a wide range of speakers.”
(Editor’s note: Swart-Entwistle is with the Combined Arms Center Public Affairs Office in Fort Leavenworth, Kansas.)