SAN DIEGO (NNS) -- More than 500 Sailors and Marines assigned to the amphibious assault ship USS Makin Island (LHD 8) and the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) attended a unique training session on Sexual Assault Prevention and Response (SAPR) in the ship's hangar bay, Aug. 15.
The "No Zebras, No Excuses" live performance, featuring students from Central Michigan University (CMU) and sponsored by the Department of the Navy's SAPR Office, featured skits designed to raise awareness and show service members how they can help prevent sexual assaults.
The skits showed how many sexual assaults occur when the victim knows the predator, how alcohol or drugs is used to take advantage of another individual, and how individuals can do their part to make sure it doesn't happen to themselves or their friends.
Paul Carbini, a student at CMU and cast member of the production, said the title "No Zebras, No Excuses" comes from the behavior exhibited by herds of zebras in the wild when they are preyed upon by lions.
When attacked, Carbini said, zebras scatter until the predator takes down one that couldn't get away. After the attack, the zebras go about their business relieved it wasn't them.
According to Carbini, the message is simple: "If we stand together, we can stop sexual assault. Don't be a zebra!"
Carbini said working with the Navy and Marine Corps has been rewarding because the hard work and dedication is so fully embraced by the men and women in the audience.
"It's amazing to work with the Navy," said Carbini. "They seem to get it. They seem to take this seriously and realize how important this is and how serious it is."
Carbini said he and the group of college students performing share many characteristics with the Sailors and Marines in the audience. Most are in the same age group, 19 to 25, and they share the same reaction to being assaulted or knowing someone who was a victim of sexual assault.
"There are similarities between Sailors and students," said Carbini. "Just like the students I see, Sailors and Marines don't know who to talk to and don't think people will listen."
To illustrate the frequency of sexual assault and how it affects more than just the primary victims, Sailors and Marines were asked during the program to close their eyes and visualize four women they know and care about, and think about how they would feel if one of them was sexually assaulted.
"When I think of four women in my life, I think about my mom, my sister, a cousin and a good friend," said Gas Turbine Systems Technician (Mechanical) Fireman Kibrom Gebregziabher. "For me it was an awakening because it puts a face to the problem."
Gebregziabher said he could definitely relate to many of the scenes he saw on stage during the performance.
"It was kind of alarming," he said. "The storylines are something you find yourself in every day. I have heard people say things like 'I'm going to get so-and-so drunk.'"
Other Sailors and Marines who attended the event said they also learned a lot of things during the unique training session.
"It only takes one person to stand up and say something to make a difference. If we can get one from this group to step up and prevent one of these scenarios, it could save someone's life," said Staff Sgt. Hallie Crawford, a Marine from the 11th MEU who attended the performance. "To do otherwise could be devastating."
The "No Zebras, No Excuses" program is being presented at all major Navy and Marine Corps installations in the San Diego area. However, this was the first time the performance took place on board a ship.
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