USS JAMES E. WILLIAMS, At Sea (NNS) -- The command Sexual Assault Prevention and Response (SAPR) representative aboard Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS James E. Williams (DDG 95) witnessed firsthand how a sexual assault impacted the life of one young female Sailor.
Chief Information Systems Technician Megan C. Gibbs spoke about how the young Sailor had been frightened of the repercussions should anyone found out, and she was embarrassed that it had happened. She didn't know who to turn to, and worst of all, she didn't think anyone would believe her.
She became withdrawn, and afterwards, she chose to leave the U.S. Navy upon completion of her first tour.
For Gibbs, spreading awareness of sexual assault is a cause she strives to take to the deckplates to prevent stories like this from ever happening again.
Along with Gibbs, service members from all branches of the United States military have banded together in solidarity to recognize Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM).
The goal of SAAM is to reduce sexual assault through direct and sustained engagement of all hands.
From placing teal ribbons and posters around the ship, to conducting training and counseling, Sailors aboard James E. Williams are actively participating in the effort to raise awareness of the impact sexual assault has on both the individual and the crew.
"As SAPR representatives, we provide immediate assistance to sexually assaulted victims," said Gibbs. "We provide them with resources, medical care, and proper reporting."
While response is necessary in dealing with the fallout of sexual assault, SAPR representatives incorporate a variety of training aids to educate the crew on what sexual assault is, how it can thwart the mission, and what resources are available to victims.
"We use Powerpoint presentations, scenario cards, and training videos," said Gibbs. "These are just a few of the methods we have to reach the crew."
Gibbs hopes these training aids also help reduce and prevent sexual assault from occurring.
"Some people have it stuck in their mind that because she didn't say 'no,' or the person was 'asking for it', that the perpetrator feels it's acceptable to engage in sexual acts with the victim," said Hospital Corpsman 2nd Class Ashley R. Thomson, a SAPR victim advocate aboard James E. Williams. "But is really comes down to 'no' means 'no', because without consent it's sexual assault."
Thomson stresses that the individual assaulted is not the only one affected.
"It puts a strain on both the victim and the command," said Thomson. "The command might lose the Sailors involved, or it can cause people to become mentally unfit to do their job."
The effects of sexual assault can erode operational readiness and create a tense and high-pressure workplace, which can lead to a breakdown in performance.
"It makes people worry that it can happen to them; their shipmates, their friends, and they can be constantly uneasy about what happened to them, or they can breakdown and shut everything out," said Thomson.
By making the program noticeable around the command through flyers, sexual assault ribbons, and by providing resources for the crew, SAPR advocates work to prevent sexual assault and ensure victims receive the proper attention, said Thomson.
"Servicemembers are taught to take care of each other," said Gibbs. "We are here to accomplish our mission, and sexual assault terribly hinders that."
Sexual Assault Prevention is an important element of the readiness area of the 21st century Navy and Marine initiative which consolidates a set of objectives and policies, new and existing, to maximize Sailor and Marine personal readiness, build resiliency and hone the most combat-effective force in the history of the department. Scripts and videos for each week's theme have been provided to commanding officers to help facilitate discussion throughout their commands. These engagement products, in addition to talking points, posters and other tools, are posted to Navy Personnel Command's Sexual Assault and Prevention website, http://www.sapr.navy.mil.
Help raise awareness by joining the conversation on social media using #SAAM.
For more information, visit www.navy.mil, www.facebook.com/usnavy, or www.twitter.com/usnavy.
For more news from USS Enterprise (CVN 65), visit www.navy.mil/local/cvn65/.