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Sailors Against Sexual Harassment (SASHA)

SASHA organization helps fight sexual assault and harassment

A Sailor-led and Sailor-driven grassroots organization, Sailors Against Sexual Harassment and Assault (SASHA), brings new and innovative ways to help end sexual harassment and assault at Naval Hospital Bremerton (NHB), Washington, and in the surrounding community.

SASHA founders, Master at Arms 1st Class Michael Campbell and Hospital Corpsman 3rd Class Shasta Campbell started the program in 2013 while stationed in Sasebo, Japan, which, at the time had the highest rate of sexual assaults in the Navy at 24 percent.

"We saw on both the medical and legal side how horrible and detrimental assaults were and knew it needed to stop," said Shasta. "We put our heads together to try and think of a way we could help stop the assaults and that is where we came up with SASHA."

With support from their chain of command and the regional sexual assault response coordinator (SARC), SASHA took off.

"We had a core group of dedicated Sailors as well as an awesome chain of command who actively supported and engaged in SASHA, which helped make the program successful. I think with that strong backing, we were able to have the success and impact that we did," Michael said. "We worked with our base SARC from the beginning because we shared a common goal and knew that together we could be more successful as a team working hand in hand."

Following a year filled with outreach events such as a haunted house and a Take Back the Night Walk, as well as awareness booths and training videos, the commander of Fleet Activities Sasebo saw a 10-percent drop in on-base sexual assaults.

"Our goal was to give Sailors a variety of things to do and give them the tools and knowledge, as well as work to expand their network of shipmates," Shasta said. "We wanted to build a cohesive team where they were more apt and comfortable to intervene in difficult and questionable situations."

When they transferred, the Campbells wanted to bring the positive impact of SASHA to the Pacific Northwest. Once settled and established at NHB, they went to Command Master Chief Jim Reynolds for approval.

"I was supportive of SASHA in part because of the Campbells' passion. But the biggest reason was, anytime you have a program or an idea by Sailors designed to help Sailors, I find that those programs are the ones that work," said Reynolds. "I think it is extremely important to support these kinds of programs because when you have Sailors taking care of Sailors that is when you see magic happen. There is real change when it is on a peer-to-peer level."

Since their first cupcake handout in October 2016, SASHA has become a staple in NHB's already active community, known for supporting multiple command functions and implementing innovative Sailor support programs.

"We gave away over 400 cupcakes and introduced SASHA to the command," Shasta explained, "and since then we have started quarterly single Sailor dinners, provided dynamic training video skits to the command, supported a local woman's shelter, created and implemented a DUI courtesy ride program called Life Line, and have reached out to local SARCs, commands and the community."

As with all new programs, there were a few initial questions and concerns, especially regarding Sexual Assault Prevention and Response program (SAPR) and SASHA roles, but following the success and positive impact, many are looking at SASHA as another tool to fight sexual assault.

"Shasta and her team are clear about their role as well as the support they provide, which I think helps add to the message and support we have for our community and Sailors," said Sharlyne Hayes, Naval Base Kitsap SARC. "Human beings have a right to be safe in their environments, whether work or social. SASHA is trying to send that message and live by that example. I am excited to see a group do that."
This is a photo collage of SASHA

The program is currently planning its first Take Back the Night Walk, scheduled for Apr. 29. The goal of the community awareness walk is to shatter the silence and stop the violence.

"We want to eradicate sexual harassment and assault - plain and simple. It is a horrible event that impacts all ranks, rates, genders and races. It has such a negative and life changing impact on victims and their friends, families and shipmates, and it needs to stop," said Shasta.

The Campbells and SASHA also approach training differently. They provide Sailors with honest conversations and video skits based on inappropriate behaviors and actions Sailors may encounter in the real world. Their goal is to open the eyes and minds to those desensitized to sexist and threatening behavior, or unsure of the difference between acceptable and unacceptable conduct, and give them tools to stop it.

"We are having open and honest conversations about how to engage with people, and are teaching our shipmates what acceptable behavior is and what is not," said Michael. "We are drawing a hard line in the sand and showing that inappropriate comments or behaviors are not acceptable or tolerated. It does nothing but erode away at our core values when we allow that type of behavior to go unchecked."

One of SASHA's mentors, Hospital Corpsman 1st Class Shaun Aragon, agreed with him, adding, "I think a main goal of SASHA is to help change the environment of acceptable behavior. The trainings they provide cover a different modality of learning vice the typical power point presentation, and they bring up scenarios Sailors often run into. I think SASHA has phenomenal impact on the entire command, and it is amazing to be a part of such an impactful group that is helping to make real positive change in the Navy."

During a luncheon with Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy Steven Giordano, SASHA members spoke about their experiences with the program and the impact it has had on them personally, as well as at NHB and regionally.

"I appreciate everything you are doing because it definitely has a profound effect in our Navy," Giordano said during the lunch. "It can only grow and have impact if you never stop the conversation. So, thank you."

Although SASHA's Take Back the Night Walk will close out April's Sexual Assault Awareness Month, members want to emphasize that training and focus don't end there. For them, awareness is year-round.

"We are a proactive group working year-round to keep the conversation going," said Shasta. "It is not really an evaluation bullet for those involved, but a network of people reaching out to other commands, hoping our message and motivation will spread, working toward one main goal: ending sexual assaults."
This is a graphic for SAAPM, created by defense media activity.