YOKOSUKA, Japan (NNS) -- Fleet Activities (FLEACT) Yokosuka Sailors learned about sexual assault prevention and response this week through engaging performances by a Long Beach, California social theater group who had traveled to Japan.
Over the course of three days, Feb. 14 to Feb. 16, hundreds of Yokosuka Sailors witnessed performances by Pure Praxis at the base's Benny Decker Theater. Actors from the performance group portrayed a scenario about Sailors' treatment of a shipmate after she had reported a sexual assault. Sailors in the audience then had a chance to volunteer solutions and try them out on stage.
"It was informative and entertaining," said Information Systems Technician 2nd Class Andrew Lavely. "It wasn't a power point presentation, which training always used to be. I'm glad to see training go to a more involved, interactive direction."
Pure Praxis is a California-based social theater group that uses improvisational theater at military installations around the world to recreate difficult real-world situations so audiences can rehearse pro-active responses.
Not every Sailor savors the opportunity to be on stage in front of their peers, but a number of Yokosuka Sailors took on the challenge.
Airman Alecia Joplin, an Aviation Boatswain's Mate on the USS Ronald Reagan, admitted feeling panicked while on stage. But she participated anyway, explaining that the experience is bound to help her overcome any fear of stepping in -- even in the face of judgmental peers -- if she witnesses the scenario in real life.
"I'm not a very good person to talk in front of a crowd, but I still thought it was important," Joplin said. "You have to be there for that person going through a challenge... put away that fear of being there for them and being judged by others and still support them."
This kind of hands-on training, along with engaged leadership, is not only empowering Sailors to intervene, but also contributing to a reduction in the number of sexual assaults, said Jill Loftus, the director of the Navy's Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office, following Wednesday's Pure Praxis show.
"From 2014 to 2016, the Navy reduced incidents of sexual assault by 30 percent," Loftus said. "Reporting went up 114 percent at the same time. What that tells me is people are getting the training."
The Pure Praxis performances covered issues such as consent, reporting of survivors, retaliation, and victim blaming. By this time next year, performances could include new material aimed at further reducing sexual assault. The U.S. Navy is considering adding two new topics, social media use and healthy relationships, to the Pure Praxis performances, Loftus said.
Learning what healthy and unhealthy relationships look like, how to ask someone out on a date, and understanding when it's okay to be intimate can help prevent sexual assault down the road. Meanwhile, addressing social media use reflects the Navy's awareness that sexual harassment and assault exists online, not just on the ground, according to Loftus.
"I hope FLEACT Yokosuka Sailors can see this in a performance next year," said Loftus, referring to the new topics under consideration.
FLEACT Yokosuka provides, maintains, and operates base facilities and services in support of 7th Fleet's forward-deployed naval forces, 71 tenant commands, and more than 27,000 military and civilian personnel.
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