ATLANTIC OCEAN (NNS) -- USS Harry S. Truman (CVN 75) is raising its voice for prevention along with the nation in observing Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month (SAAPM) throughout April while the ship is underway for a regularly-scheduled deployment.
Truman's SAPR team is raising awareness with this year's theme of "Protecting our People Protects Our Mission" by hosting a brunch, bingo and a 5K run/fitness challenge during the month of April.
"Victim advocate is a very big collateral duty," said Lt. Katelyn S. Howenstine, a Sexual Assault Prevention and Response (SAPR) coordinator and point of contact (POC). "Whenever a victim advocate is assigned to a client, their job is to be available as often as possible and to help with whatever is needed, 24/7."
Consequently, Sailors from departments all around the ship have stepped up to tackle the difficult task of helping victims, or survivors, as SAPR victim advocate Aviation Ordnanceman 3rd Class Florentina Din has done.
"We don't like to call people victims, we like to call them survivors," said Din. "We're solely there for our shipmates. We're there to support them, be their backbone and help them through whatever it is they may be going through emotionally."
Becoming a victim advocate is about more than just being available. According to Din, victim advocacy requires you to change the way you think.
"When I went through the [victim advocate] training I was told to 'check my eye'," added Din. "That means to check yourself and your attitude to make sure you're not doing anything that can indirectly promote things like sexual harassment and sexual assault."
Din and Howenstine share the belief that the harmful reality that the SAPR program was created to deal with can't be ignored.
Howenstine thinks of her role in the SAPR program much like her role as a medical officer.
"SAPR is, in a way, like my job in medical department," added Howenstine. "As a medical officer, I wish I didn't have a job. I wish no one on the ship got hurt. But I'm here because that is not the case. Same thing with SAPR - I wish SAPR didn't exist and people didn't need my assistance, but unfortunately they sometimes do."
Truman is operating in the U.S. Sixth Fleet area of responsibility as a part of a regularly scheduled deployment supporting maritime security operations in international waters around the globe.
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