By MC1 Mark D. Faram, Chief of Naval Personnel Public Affairs.
In the Navy, Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention isn't just a month; it's a movement.
This April marks the 20th anniversary of Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month (SAAPM). Officially established in 2001, the month's purpose is to raise awareness and facilitate the prevention of sexual assault, harassment, and abuse.
The Department of Defense (DoD) has themed this year's SAAPM as "Protecting Our People Protects Our Mission."
As a Navy, the month-long focus on awareness will kick off a year-round effort of prevention with a theme of "Respect. Protect. Empower."
"Just one incident of sexual assault or harassment is one too many, so this really is an All-Hands effort," said Rear Adm. Putnam H. Browne, director of the Navy's 21st Century Sailor Office.
"Every level of leadership has a duty to promote a command climate of dignity and respect. and has a responsibility for cultivating an atmosphere of trust and professionalism. But it all starts with treating everyone with dignity and respect,” said Browne.
“Commands should never tolerate sexual harassment, assault, or retaliatory behavior. Victims need to have confidence in the system and know they can report these behaviors because perpetrators are held accountable for their actions."
As the Navy changes from a culture of compliance to one of excellence, the 10 signature behaviors of great leaders and shipmates will fuel this culture, Browne added.
"When adopted and used in our daily lives, these behaviors positively contribute to an improved well-being, greater connectedness and increased toughness, trust and resilience," he said.
"A community that adopts these signature behaviors is engaging in the prevention of sexual violence."
This month and beyond, the Navy's leadership is challenging all Sailors and Navy civilians to concentrate on three specific behaviors as a starting point in this call to action:
• At all times, commit to treating others with respect.
• Protect one another from harm and retaliation through active intervention.
• Empower those around you to speak up or intervene.
To rid the ranks of destructive behaviors, officials say all members of the Navy team must report sexual harassment and assault and work to connect victims with needed care and support.
“Sexual assault and harassment should never be tolerated, condoned or ignored,” said Browne. “We need to promote a culture of respect and protect our shipmates, empowering them to seek assistance and support if they are sexually harassed or sexually assaulted.”
Officials say all Sailors should challenge inappropriate comments and behaviors directed towards their shipmates and speak up as a show of support to discourage physical and mental abuse.
The Navy has an established support structure for victims of sexual assault so they can report incidents and get the help they need.
This includes networks of Sexual Assault Response Coordinators (SARCs), Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Victim Advocates (SAPR VAs) and Unit SAPR VAs. These specially trained individuals help victims obtain services and offer trauma-informed care, referrals and ongoing non-clinical support.
Special Victims' Counsel (SVC) and Victims' Legal Counsel (VLC) provide victims with legal representation, support in exercising their legal rights, and other assistance while navigating the military justice system.
The DoD Safe Helpline is also available 24/7 to assist victims with the reporting process and next steps after a sexual assault.
Sailors impacted by sexual harassment or assault can call (877)995-5247 or (202)540-5962 to reach a trained, confidential, Safe Helpline staff member. DSN users can call (877)995-5247. OCONUS Service members can contact the Telephone Helpline for free from anywhere globally by using Voice over IP (VoIP) technology from the Safe Helpline App.
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