USS ENTERPRISE, At Sea (NNS) -- As the aircraft carrier USS Enterprise (CVN 65) continues its participation in Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM), one group of Sailors onboard are particularly invested in the training and education of the crew to prevent incidents of sexual assault.
This group consists of Enterprise's Sexual Assault Prevention and Response (SAPR) representatives, and for them, SAAM is a year-round effort.
Each department onboard Enterprise has an appointed SAPR representative and, although these representatives are helping guide the training occurring aboard Enterprise this month, their mission doesn't end when SAAM concludes April 30.
The SAPR team aboard the ship is always readily available to not only provide training on the negative impacts of sexual assault, but to also assist any Sailor who may be a victim.
"Command readiness is affected by sexual assault," said Navy Career Counselor 1st Class Linda H. Gilmore, one of Enterprise's SAPR representatives. "It is important to have SAPR representatives on board to educate, train, bring awareness, and provide support if needed."
Gilmore explained that the role of a SAPR Victim Advocate is to provide effective and appropriate support and guidance for victims of sexual assault.
In addition to helping victims and informing the crew during scheduled training events such as those held during SAAM, dedicated SAPR victim advocates like Hospital Corpsman 2nd Class Sonia R. Strickland, ensure that the medical staff aboard Enterprise receives additional training.
"Once a victim makes a report, medical plays a big role in the process of sexual assault cases," said Strickland. "As one of the victim advocates on board, I conduct the primary training with the medical staff so they are aware of the proper procedures to go through."
Strickland created a sexual assault forensic exam instruction, so the medical team is prepared in the event of an incident. The kit includes step-by-step instructions so they know what to do and who to contact.
SAPR representatives are supported by the SAPR chain of command on board. Senior Chief Hospital Corpsman Cheri R. Snaza, one of two command liaisons, is responsible for maintaining communication with the regional sexual assault response coordinator (SARC) in Norfolk and providing the SAPR advocates with the time and education necessary to perform their roles successfully.
"It is important for us to provide the advocates with the support they need," said Snaza. "If we, as leaders, fail to provide our advocates with the tools needed to do their jobs effectively, then we have failed not only that individual, but every victim who tries to get help."
Strickland stressed that if a Sailor or Marine needs help, they will receive the complete attention and full effort of the SAPR team.
"We want victims to know that we are here for them," said Strickland. "Regardless of the fears or road blocks that may be encountered, victims need to know they have a place to go and someone to talk to who will listen and do their very best to help."
Sexual Assault Prevention and Response is an important element of the readiness area of the 21st Century Sailor 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 Navy and Marine Corps. The Department of the Navy is working to aggressively to prevent sexual assaults, to support sexual assault victims, and to hold offenders accountable.
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