Every week it seems there is a new headline about sexual assault in the military. News reports use words like “rampant” and “epidemic” to describe recent high-profile sexual assault incidents involving Military Service Academies, recruiters and even personnel within the Sexual Assault Prevention and Response (SAPR) Program itself. This has led to sweeping change within the Department of the Navy and across the Department of Defense as a whole. New training initiatives were implemented including SAPR-F for personnel E-6 and below, SAPR-L for personnel E-7 and above, SAPR-C for civilian personnel as well as a stand-down to address this serious issue. Other changes included implementing roving barracks patrols to increase safety in base housing, restricting hours that alcohol can be purchased at Navy Exchanges and providing resiliency counselors to better support deployed units. Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS) also has additional agents to meet a new requirement to investigate all allegations of sexual assault, regardless of severity.
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Lieutenant Anthony Allard, Headquarters, Naval Supply Systems Command
Unfortunately, these initiatives alone will not eliminate sexual assault within our Navy. We are left wondering if there is any way we can make a difference as individuals in combating this terrible crime.
The environment can play a major role in the likelihood of sexual assault. It is well-known that alcohol is a contributing factor in the majority incidents. Every Sailor can contribute to preventing sexual assault by building a positive environment where alcohol use is not glamorized and sexist jokes or comments are not tolerated. If you overhear crude sexual jokes, inappropriate comments, or witness unwanted sexual advances or quid pro quo behavior, it is imperative that you act. Inappropriate behavior must be addressed immediately. Hesitation can easily be interpreted as disinterest, or worse, you will send the signal that this behavior is acceptable.
Taking an active role to protect a shipmate from sexual harassment and sexual assault is called bystander intervention. It is the responsibility of all Sailors to actively intervene in circumstances that could lead to sexual assault. This includes intervening to protect someone who could become a victim as well as intervening to stop a potential perpetrator. Sexual predators will often times rely on the inaction of others as well as the use of alcohol or drugs to facilitate sexual assault.
As a bystander, you should ask yourself if a situation seems risky or doesn’t look right. Is a potential victim being encouraged to continue drinking even when they are already intoxicated? Is an individual intentionally trying to isolate a potential victim by offering a ride or inviting him or her to their home? In these situations, talk to the potential victim and ensure that he or she is ok. Tell them if you think the situation is dangerous and recommend that they stop drinking. Involve other friends as much as possible. Act as a third wheel and do not leave the potential victim alone with the potential perpetrator.
All Sailors can prevent sexual assault through active bystander intervention. You will not be “ruining everybody’s fun”. You are protecting your shipmates from potential harm.
If you or someone you know is the victim of sexual assault, help is available via the Department of Defense Safe Helpline at www.safehelpline.org
or by calling 877-995-5247. It is confidential and available 24/7. Victims are also encouraged to contact their command’s SAPR Victim Advocate or Sexual Assault Response Coordinator (SARC) to discuss reporting options, medical treatment and counseling services available.
By Lieutenant Anthony Allard, Headquarters, Naval Supply Systems Command