ANNAPOLIS, Md. (NNS) -- More than 4,400 Naval Academy midshipmen completed the Navy's sexual assault prevention and response fleet (SAPR-F) training Feb. 19.
The SAPR-F program is designed to teach sailors that ending sexual assault in the Navy and inspiring change within individual commands is every sailor's responsibility. It aims to educate sailors about bystander intervention and encourage responsible decision making.
The training is delivered in sections, each covering a different topic such as awareness, prevention and intervention, and response. For each topic, participants view a segment of a scenario-based video then discuss it.
Sexual assault prevention and response is an important element of the 21st Century Sailor and Marine initiative, which outlines a set of objectives and policies to maximize sailor and Marine personal readiness, build resiliency, and hone the most combat-effective force.
In addition to the Navy-wide training, midshipmen receive more than 30 hours of sexual assault prevention instruction throughout their four years at the Naval Academy, including 15 hours of formal training and at least 15 hours of non-classroom briefings conducted throughout the year in specialized training sessions and lectures.
The Naval Academy superintendent and commandant personally brief every midshipman on the importance of sexual harassment and assault awareness, prevention and reporting at the beginning of each semester.
"I want to ensure that the entire Naval Academy family continues to promote a positive command climate where this type of behavior is immediately identified and ultimately eliminated, while compassionately caring for the victims," said Naval Academy Superintendent Vice Adm. Michael Miller. "As an institution producing future leaders for the Navy and Marine Corps, nothing is more important than instilling and maintaining a climate where all midshipmen always treat one another - and expect to be treated - with dignity and respect."
Through the academy's Sexual Harassment and Assault Prevention and Education (SHAPE) program, plebes and youngsters receive approximately five hours of formal education each year focusing on various aspects of sexual harassment and sexual assault prevention. First and second-class midshipmen receive at least two hours of education each year, and SHAPE material is integrated into their required leadership and law classes as well as the first class capstone curriculum.
The SHAPE program is supplemented by guest presentations specifically chosen to support learning objectives, the most recent by former NFL player Joe Ehrmann earlier this month.
The academy's Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office (SAPRO) has more than 50 midshipmen volunteers trained as sexual assault response (SAR) representatives - called GUIDEs (Guidance, Understanding, Information, Direction, Education) - within the brigade. These midshipmen apply for the position and are screened and interviewed by the midshipman SAR staff and the USNA senior victim advocate. If selected, they attend 18 hours of specialized training before assuming their duties.
Additionally, in support of the Navy's emphasis on sexual assault and harassment awareness and prevention, all civilian personnel at the Naval Academy undergo annual web-based training on the prevention of sexual harassment.
Sexual assault is widely considered the most under-reported crime in the U.S. As the head of the Naval Academy's SAPRO, Capt. Lynn Acheson, Sexual Assault Response Coordinator (SARC) said that this statistic was part of the reason for Navy leadership's aggressive efforts to promote essential culture changes within the force. The aim is to create a command climate that encourages victims to report a crime so it may be thoroughly investigated and, where sufficient evidence is present, prosecuted to the fullest extent possible, while ensuring the victim's privacy is protected and they get the support they need.
To accomplish this, the academy has implemented a robust reporting structure to ensure an environment in which midshipmen are free to discuss sexual assault or harassment issues, get counseling if desired, and report the issue either anonymously through the DoD Safe Helpline or directly to authorities.
The culture at the academy encourages reporting issues at all times. It is made very clear that reporting sexual harassment or assault is always the right thing to do. Once reported, the sexual assault prevention staff follows through from beginning to end until the matter is resolved.
Senior officials at the Naval Academy are notified of every case of sexual assault that is reported to the SAPRO. Every unrestricted report of sexual assault is investigated through the Naval Criminal Investigative Service and civilian law enforcement agencies as appropriate. Restricted reports are kept to the level of confidentiality chosen by the victim. In every sexual assault case, the victim is offered immediate medical care, counseling and support.
The brigade has at least five different avenues to get help or counseling if they desire. In addition to individuals specifically trained to respond to sexual assault cases, midshipmen can voice a complaint to or seek assistance from brigade leadership, junior officers, civilian faculty and staff, enlisted personnel and chaplains.
Midshipmen are also encouraged to talk to people they trust, including coaches, faculty and sponsor parents. The Midshipman Development Center, staffed by professional military and civilian counselors, is available to offer confidential advice and assistance on a wide range of personal and behavioral matters.
The academy has a full-time civilian senior victim advocate and a licensed clinical social worker specializing in sexual assault. Acheson, a senior fleet officer with command experience, heads the program and is personally responsible for the coordination of victim care from the initial report through final resolution.
For more news from U.S. Naval Academy, visit www.navy.mil/local/usna/.