NORFOLK, Va. (NNS) -- Naval Station (NAVSTA) Norfolk held Sexual Assault Awareness training April 9-10 as part of the Navy's Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month (SAAPM) campaign.
The Navy's theme for the month is "Courage" and will support the Department of Defense's theme of "We own it...we'll solve it ...together."
The goal is to empower commands to take ownership. The Navy is focusing efforts on awareness and prevention of sexual violence through the use of command-level education and special events throughout the month of April. Each week will focus on a different theme in the commitment to raising awareness and promoting the prevention of sexual violence.
Captain David A. Culler, Jr., commanding officer for NAVSTA, spoke during the Sexual Assault Prevention and Response (SAPR) training before signing the SAAPM proclamation.
"The education and prevention of sexual assault is something we should be thinking about every day," said Culler. "Until we are at zero incidents, I will not be satisfied."
Edie Moorcones, an advocacy clinical counselor with Norfolk Fleet and Family Service Center (FFSC), spoke about recognizing the mental and physical changes a victim of sexual assault may undergo.
"A victim of sexual assault goes through a crisis reaction just like anyone else affected by a life-changing event," said Moorcones. "The difference is their grief, their cry for help, is all internalized."
Moorcones said changes in victim behavior can vary from complete withdrawal to outright promiscuity, anything outside the normal behavior of the individual.
"The more training the better," said Moorcones. "Commands that get the word out increase the likelihood of a victim stepping forward and getting the help they need."
In addition to Navy-wide and command-level training, the NAVSTA Criminal Investigation Service (NCIS) stepped up their efforts to increase awareness and prevention. A sexual assault task force was developed and activiated last fall which has allowed the unit to focus on the timeliness and thoroughness of sexual assault related investigations.
Brian Brittingham, a supervisory special agent with the Sexual Assault Task Force, said his team works closely with local authorities, district prosecutors, FFSC victim advocates and the victim's command.
"This major cooperation has made it possible for our unit to shorten investigation time," said Brittingham.
In addition to SAPR training, NAVSTA is scheduled to host several events to raise awareness.
Throughout the month, 145 T-shirts were hung along Gilbert Street by FFSC volunteers, to represent the 145 reported sexual assualt cases Norfolk had in 2012.
"I appreciate all the hard work the FFSC volunteers have put in," said Culler. "Their effort and resources provide an immeasurable amount of support to NAVSTA Sailors and the Hampton Roads area."
NAVSTA looks to strike-out sexual assault during the inaugural SAAPM softball game against Naval Support Activity (NSA) Hampton Roads April 12.
"The base is honored to host this first-ever event," said Culler. "I encourage everyone to come out and cheer on their perspective command and support the campaign against sexual assault."
Sailors will trade in their Navy blues for a pair of blue jeans April 24 in recognition of "Denim Day", a prevention and education campaign to increase awareness about sexual violence and prevention.
Denim Day began as a demonstration by female parliamentarians in Italy protesting the Italian Supreme Court of Appeal's decision to overturn a convicted rapist's sentence. The court ruled because the victim wore very, very tight jeans, she had to help him remove them, and by removing the jeans it was no longer rape but consensual sex. Within a matter of hours following the verdict, the women in the Italian Parliament launched into immediate action and protested by wearing jeans to work.
Bringing SAAPM to a close, the Norfolk Tides are scheduled to host NAVSTA Norfolk SAPR night April 27.
"It is a great way for everyone to come together and raise awareness all at the same time," said Culler.
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.
Help raise awareness by joining the conversation on social media using #SexualAssault and #SAAPM.
For more information visit on Sexual Assault Awarness Month visit www.myduty.mil.