NORFOLK (NNS) -- Commander, U.S. Fleet Forces (USFF) held a media roundtable April 10, at USFF headquarters with reporters in attendance and via teleconference, to answer questions about the Navy's Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM) initiatives and training programs.
Adm. John C. Harvey Jr. and Fleet Master Chief Michael Stevens spoke about the Navy's mission to increase awareness and improve training to eliminate sexual assaults across the fleet.
"As leaders we have a moral duty to keep Sailors and their families safe from those who would attack their persons, their dignity, and their honor. To carry out this duty, we must work together to combat sexual assault within our ranks and eliminate this criminal behavior from the Fleet," said Harvey. "Educating our Sailors about the impact of sexual assault is every leader's business! Active, intrusive leadership is required to make this month effective and ensure our message is heard and understood at all levels. And it must begin at the deck plates, in the work centers, across our Fleet."
In fiscal year 2010 there were 611 restricted and unrestricted reports of sexual assaults. Of the 441 unrestricted reports, 49 percent (214) were aggravated sexual assault and 65 percent (285) were cases in which a service member was assaulted by another service member. On average there are two to three sexual assaults reported every day, and in most cases alcohol is involved.
"We (the Navy) would never tolerate two to three motorcycle accidents a day, and we can't tolerate this many sexual assault incidents. Each of these incidents erodes the trust that, ultimately, is what holds us together as a Navy while causing great physical and mental harm to those assaulted," said Harvey.
The Navy has instituted a new sexual assault awareness and training program designed to address the issues that many people are uncomfortable discussing. As part of this program all USFF commands will conduct mandatory education sessions to raise sexual assault awareness among Sailors. Commanding officers can hold either a single two-hour stand down or break the discussions into four 30-minute weekly sessions.
The overall theme this year is, "Hurts One, Affects All. Prevention of Sexual Assault is Everyone's Duty." In addition to this overarching theme, USFF will highlight complementary weekly themes throughout the month: "Hurts One," "Affects All," "Prevention is Everyone's Duty," and "We Will Not Tolerate Sexual Assault."
"Fleet Stevens and I are committed to eliminating sexual assault; to ensuring compassionate support for sexual assault victims; to investigating all cases thoroughly; and to holding perpetrators accountable within the full extent of the Uniform Code of Military Justice," said Harvey.
Stevens said the issue has been a high priority for him since coming to Fleet Forces.
"This is not new to us, we've been conducting training for Chief's Mess' around the Fleet for over a year, and we've made sexual assault prevention a priority topic of training," said Stevens. "In the past year, the Fleet CPO Training Teams have conducted training with over 1,700 chief petty officers and they are pushing this training down to the deck plates."
April has been designated Sexual Assault Awareness Month, but Harvey said this is just the first step to confronting this crime. Creating a climate that encourages Sailors to look out for each other and report improprieties before they devolve into an assault is essential. Leadership at all levels takes this issue to heart and fundamentally changes attitudes with respect to sexual assault, change will be challenging.
"Sexual Assault Awareness Month is only the first phase of a larger, focused initiative to help foster command climates where reporting sexual assault is embraced," said Harvey. "Success will be achieved only through an all-hands, top-to-bottom, concerted effort to eliminate sexual assault from our ranks. We must and will ensure justice is upheld throughout the reporting, investigation and prosecution process.
"There are no easy answers, but that makes it all the more essential for us as leaders to devote our energy and our attention to confronting this crime. We must take a stand and all of us be leaders against sexual assault. Strong and consistent efforts to educate, prevent assaults, prosecute offenders, and protect our Sailors, our shipmates, is a requirement of command," said Harvey.
For more information on SAAM 2012 initiatives and resources, go to: https://www.sapr.navy.mil.
For more information about Sexual Assault Awareness Month visit Admiral Harvey's blog and Facebook page at the following links.
Sexual Assault Prevention and Response is an important element of the readiness area of the 21st Century Sailor and Marine initiative which consolidates a set of objectives and policies, new and existing, to maximize Sailor and Marine personal readiness, build resiliency and hone the most combat-effective force in the history of the Navy and Marine Corps. The Department of the Navy is working to aggressively to prevent sexual assaults, to support sexual assault victims, and to hold offenders accountable.
Help raise awareness by joining the conversation on social media using #SAAM.
For more information, visit www.navy.mil, www.facebook.com/usnavy, or www.twitter.com/usnavy.
For more news from U.S. Fleet Forces Command, visit www.navy.mil/local/clf/.