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Sexual Assault Prevention Starts With You

by Melissa Cohen | 04 May 2022

by Melissa Cohen | 04 May 2022

The costs of failing to act—failing to protect a teammate—are undeniable.

While Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month is officially recognized during the month of April, it doesn’t stop there. It’s important to understand the role we each have in preventing sexual assault, sexual harassment and in creating a healthy climate built upon a foundation of respect. This is a yearlong commitment that we make to each other.

Here are ways every Sailor, Marine, and civilian can foster connection, trust and accountability at every level throughout the Department of the Navy (DON).

  1. Know the warning signs.

We know risk for sexual assault increases in climates where problematic behaviors are tolerated. Intervene when you encounter destructive behaviors such as lack of respect, gender discrimination and workplace hostility. Find more information about these behaviors and intervention strategies at

  1. Engage in small group discussions about recognizing and stopping negative behaviors at their onset.

We need to practice having tough conversations so that we can address problematic behaviors before they escalate. Empower DON service members and civilians to take inappropriate behaviors seriously and intervene early on. Give them the courage to tell someone racist or sexist comments are inappropriate, or when a behavior makes others uncomfortable. That will send a powerful message to your team. Establish a routine of having these important conversations and help reduce the discomfort associated with talking about sexual assault or any other destructive behaviors.

  1. Provide support.

Let your team know that you are available to support them. Get familiar with and share the many resources available that include confidential reporting options for sexual assault and counseling. Wallet-size Connect and Protect cards are available in the resources link for you to distribute. They contain valuable resource information for service members and civilians who may be seeking help, and are available both online and in hard copy to give to someone in need.

We are all responsible for cultivating a climate of dignity and respect that is intolerant of sexual assault and sexual harassment.

If you or someone you know needs help, please call the DoD Safe Helpline at 1-877-995-5247 to be connected to a sexual assault response coordinator or other resources. And if you are a DON civilian, call the Employee Assistance Program at 1-844-DON-CEAP.

Melissa Cohen is the Director of Force Resiliency for the Department of the Navy. In this role she is the principal advisor on issues pertaining to sexual assault, sexual harassment and suicide prevention and response, within the Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Navy (Manpower and Reserve Affairs). Cohen entered the Senior Executive Service in January 2019. Before her current position, Cohen was the Director of the Personnel Studies and Oversight office for the United States Marine Corps, where she served as an advisor to the Assistant Commandant of the Marine Corps, recommending policy changes to enhance efforts to attract, assign and retain talented Marines and civilians.


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