NORFOLK (NNS) -- As a continued effort to eliminate sexual assault within the Department of the Navy (DoN), Sexual Assault Response Coordinators (SARCs) are attending an annual weeklong SARC Conference at Naval Station Norfolk's Vista Point Conference Center, Sept. 9-13.
Sexual assault prevention is the Navy's and Chief of Naval Operations' number one priority, said Vice Adm. William D. French, commander, Navy Installations Command (CNIC), who provided conference opening remarks Monday. Sexual assaults also affect the Navy's overall mission readiness and effectiveness, he said.
"We are coordinating with the fleets to make sure we get the right word out to our Sailors," said French, who noted the Navy has dedicated numerous training modules specifically for sexual assault prevention, including Sexual Assault Prevention Response (SAPR) standdowns, SAPR Leadership (SAPR-L), SAPR Fleet (SAPR-F), and most recently, SAPR Civilian (SAPR-C).
"From our perspective at CNIC, we're hiring 66 new SARCs, 66 new SAPR Victim Advocates (VA), and soon we will be hiring 21 resiliency counselors that will be deployed aboard 21 different big deck ships - on amphibs as well as aircraft carriers," he said.
"We're working to try to educate folks on how to be responsible, and at the same time, we are holding those perpetrators and offenders accountable," French continued. "It's a broad effort across the Navy."
French said that securing qualified SARCs and VAs has been a smooth process due to the willingness of active duty volunteers.
"We've been able to find a lot of motivated and fully-qualified SARCs and Victim Advocates ... and the bulk of our Victim Advocates are volunteers that are wearing the uniform," he said.
"Most of our victim advocates are those that are assigned to each of our ships, aviation squadrons, submarines and tenant commands - everybody is responsible for having a victim advocate that is familiar with the people from their command."
"We have a lot of volunteers who have that responsibility and interface with paid victim advocates and paid SARCs," he continued, noting that by the end of this month, CNIC will have a total of almost 5,000 credentialed SAPR VAs and SARCs within the command.
Training during the week's events will include: CNIC SAPR program updates, mock sexual assault case management, introduction to Victims' Legal Counsel, SARC 101, how to recruit and support Uniformed Victim Advocates (UVA), working in joint environments, working with Navy Operation and Support Centers, Mentors in Violence Prevention Advanced Bystander training, and much more.
French feels the Navy's extensive training efforts will pay dividends in the eradication of sexual assaults within the fleet.
"We feel as though we have a big impact as we work with fleets, because most of those Sailors are in the fleet. Our regions are engaged with the fleet commanders to work this in a collaborative way," he said. "In the end, it really becomes a chain of command responsibility - the CO of a ship, the CO of an installation, the CO of a tenant command - all responsible for the command climate and responsible for doing the right thing to ensure that sexual assaults don't happen within their command."
In addition to the SARC training, DoN civilian staff members in Hampton Roads are scheduled to attend Navywide "Sexual Assault Prevention: One Team, One Fight" courses this week, known as SAPR-C, developed by the DoN Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office (SAPRO). Training has been mandated by the Secretary of the Navy to be completed by Oct. 1 for all civilians, and recorded in the Defense Civilian Personnel Data System (DCPDS) by no later than Oct. 7. This training is designed to meet congressional, Department of Defense and DoN requirements as part of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2012.
"The Navy has made [sexual assault prevention] a priority. Whenever we make something a priority, put the resources to it, and put the commitment of our leadership to it, I think we are going to make great progress," said French.
"Certainly, we are not perfect yet - it's a difficult problem - but once we get going, we are going to have the impact we need. It's going to have to be a dedicated effort across the fleet for all of us to drive home responsible behavior, not just for sexual assault, but responsible behavior across the board when it comes to what we want our Sailors to do."
Additional information on the Navy's SAPR program can be found at www.sapr.navy.mil, or on CNICs SAPR website at http://goo.gl/i1KT2y.
If you have been a victim of a sexual assault, need crisis intervention, emotional support, referrals to both military and civilian resources in your area, and/or need information on reporting options available, call the DOD Safe Helpline at (877) 995-5247, or visit https://safehelpline.org - 24-hours-a-day, 7-days-a-week, worldwide.
To join the Navy's conversation about sexual assault and raise awareness on Facebook and Twitter, use #NavySAPR.
For more news from Commander, Navy Region Mid Atlantic, visit www.navy.mil/local/cnrma/.