BEAUFORT, S.C. (NNS) -- All active duty staff at Naval Hospital Beaufort began attending mandatory Navy-wide Sexual Assault Prevention and Response (SAPR) program training June 17, designed to ensure all hands understand that sexual assault and sexual harassment will not be tolerated.
"This stand-down is being conducted by the command triad, which is the commanding officer, executive officer, and the command master chief to show how serious we are about preventing sexual assault," said Capt. Joan Queen, Naval Hospital Beaufort's commanding officer. "We are at each and every one of the 17 sessions. A climate that allows sexual misconduct to fester is one that adversely impacts mission readiness, degrades unit morale, and is unacceptable at Naval Hospital Beaufort. This training is so important because it allows me personally, as the commanding officer, to convey to every single Sailor at this command that there is zero tolerance for sexual assault at this hospital and in the Navy."
The naval hospital's Education and Training Department is facilitating 17, two-hour sessions, which will ensure that all active duty personnel complete the training by July 1 as required. All civilian personnel at the hospital are highly encouraged to attend the training.
According to Lt. Cmdr. Francisco Wonpat, education and training department head, the format of the training consists of video messages from the Secretary of the Navy, the Chief of Naval Operations, followed by a guided discussion that covers topics that include sexual harassment, sexual assault, Navy core values, bystander intervention, consent and responsible use of alcohol. The Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy's video is played before the commanding officer wraps up the session by outlining her expectations for all Sailors attached to the hospital, the command's commitment to preventing sexual assault, and support services available to victims of sexual assault.
"One of the primary benefits of hosting these trainings in small group settings is that a lot of conversation is being generated among staff after each session is finished," said Capt. Melanie Merrick, the hospital's executive officer.
"And the more we talk about sexual assault, the more comfortable people will be about speaking up when there is a problem that needs to be addressed."
The guided discussions led by the command team have not only emphasized how serious Naval Hospital Beaufort takes the matter of sexual misconduct but have also encouraged staff to really give thought to the role they can play in preventing sexual assault.
"At one point in the training, the males and females had to make a list of what they did on a daily basis to prevent themselves from being sexually assaulted," said Ship's Serviceman 2nd Class Kalie Liesenfeld. "Our group came up with a lengthy list, and it made me think that there are a lot of precautions that I may not pay attention to on a daily basis."
According to Liesenfeld, having command leadership facilitate the training was more effective than simply watching a presentation and videos because it drove home how important preventing sexual assault and harassment is to the chain of command.
"I want every Sailor to realize that when it comes to preventing sexual misconduct, we are all leaders," said Queen. "Each and every one of us, from our most junior enlisted Sailor and up, must set the example and be part of creating a culture where sexual assault is not tolerated," said Queen. "I also want any victims of sexual assault to know that their case will be taken seriously, that they will receive the care and support they need, and that perpetrators will be appropriately punished."
Several civilian staff also took the opportunity to participate in the training, including Cindy Goodson, command compliance officer.
"The discussion about bystander intervention was very relevant," said Goodson. "It's important to give people the tools they need and empower them to help prevent sexual harassment and assault when they see unacceptable behavior. Bringing attention to what we can all do to create an environment where any sexually inappropriate behavior isn't tolerated is how we are going to create real change."
Open since 1949, Naval Hospital Beaufort provides general medical, surgical, and emergency services to all active duty personnel, as well as retired military and family members residing in the Beaufort area, a total population of approximately 29,000 beneficiaries.
Get more information and resources to combat sexual assault at www.sapr.navy.mil. Sexual assault affects Navy readiness, and the Navy is committed to preventing sexual assault. Join the Navy's conversation about sexual assault on social media and help raise awareness by using #NavySAPR.
For more news from Naval Hospital Beaufort, visit www.navy.mil/local/nhbeaufort/.