GREAT LAKES, Ill. (NNS) (NNS) -- Senior Navy leaders in the Great Lakes area are meeting Feb. 16-17 at a summit to plan strategies to prevent sexual assault cases in the Navy, beginning with the Navy's newest Sailors.
"We think the solution is here," said Jill Vines Loftus, director of the Department of the Navy's Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office (DON-SAPRO), while addressing leadership during the two-day, Stakeholder Planning Summit on Sexual Assault Prevention Strategies.
The summit was planned earlier this year as part of the Navy's long range approach to combat sexual assualts.
The main objective of the program is to cultivate a Department of the Navy culture of gender respect where sexual assault is completely eliminated and never tolerated.
"We are here not because you are the problem but because you are the solution," Loftus said, referring to the at-risk population in the area, a high concentration of junior Sailors. "This is where everyone comes; we want to start them out right. We are here because of the leadership who are dealing with these Sailors and are aware and concerned with their welfare and who also have good ideas.
"You understand the issue of young Sailors and sexual assault," the director told her audience. "You have more young Sailors than anyplace else."
Summit attendees were welcomed by Rear Adm. Tilghman Payne, commander, Navy Region Midwest, who discussed the impact sexual assaults can have on the Navy mission and the importance of preventing those assaults from happening.
"What we are doing is really important. It has an impact on our mission," Payne explained. "Everybody here is a leader, ensuring that people are treated with dignity and respect. Everyone in this room has an opportunity to really make a difference.
"We have a wealth of ideas and brains here and I want to tap this," he explained. "Do not limit your thinking. I need you all to be creative with new thoughts and new ideas. Let's not limit options."
Loftus, who reports directly to the Secretary and Under Secretary of the Navy, serves as the Secretary of the Navy's (SECNAV) principal point of accountability for all sexual assault policy matters and as the primary resource for expert sexual assault prevention and response assessment, support, and oversight. She has served in the position since 2009.
"The secretary of the Navy has asked us to look at prevention," Loftus said. "We need better tools. I'm here to ask you to help me."
Loftus has more than 34 years of federal service in multiple agencies and organizations.
For more news from Commander, Navy Region Midwest/Naval Station Great Lakes, visit www.navy.mil/local/midwest/.