Raise Our Voices for Prevention
Navy Recognizes Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month
Since 1775, it has been the mission of the United States Navy to protect the seas, defend commerce and engage enemies who would threaten our safety, wherever they may be. There is another, often silent, battle, however, one being fought within our own ranks that too often goes unnoticed. This month, Sailors around the world are stepping up to fight back and raising their voices for prevention.
The Department of the Defense (DOD) and Navy have joined the nation in observing Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month (SAAPM), which enhances the Sexual Assault Prevention and Response (SAPR) Office's year-round campaign of awareness, prevention and education. This year's DOD theme is "Protecting Our People Protects our Mission." "Raise Your Voice for Prevention" is the call to action for the Navy. The theme and call to action encourage service members to speak up and help empower victims of sexual assault.
"The goal for our program is to eliminate sexual assault within the military," said Keri Wanner, a sexual assault response coordinator (SARC) for Naval Support Activity Bethesda, Maryland. "Sexual assault is not OK. Getting education and awareness out helps change people's minds; it helps get away from that victim blaming and move toward the part of believing."
These efforts seem to be succeeding. According to the DOD SAPR office, there were an estimated 26,000 cases of sexual assault in the military in 2012, with only 11 percent of the victims choosing to report. That number has dropped by nearly half, with approximately 14,900 cases and a 32-percent report rate in 2016.
"If there is sexual assault or sexual misconduct happening in any of our commands, it definitely disrupts ... readiness," said Todd Cook, special agent with the Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS). "It causes hostile work environments; it causes animosity among individuals who are supposed to be working as a team to forward our goals as a military. ... We realize how much of a negative impact it has on the different military communities, and I think there's a strong push on law enforcement, as there should be, to get involved and help the commands maintain the highest level of readiness they can."
Throughout the month of April, SAPR teams around the world are hosting various events - from 5K races to proclamation signing ceremonies - to inform, educate and raise awareness among service members. Additionally, Wanner said, installation SARCs will use the opportunity to ensure correct and up-to-date policy information is being utilized at each command.