SAAM Builds On Our Fight Against Sexual Assault

The graphic logo to illustrate Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM) initiative.

By Rear Adm. Martha Herb
Deputy, Navy Personnel Command
Director, Personnel Readiness And Community Support

Today marks the start of the nationwide Sexual Assault Awareness Month.

Sexual Assault Awareness Month allows us to build on our fight against sexual assault.

Over the course of the past year, we’ve held an ongoing conversation with you about the ways in which the Navy is working aggressively to prevent sexual assaults, support sexual assault victims and hold offenders accountable with a top-down, leadership-driven strategy. This blog represents a continuation of this important conversation.

We are committed to eradicating incidents of sexual assault in our Navy and have taken a multitude of steps over the past year to do so. Some of these efforts are detailed in this blog. We do, however, recognize that there is still much to accomplish and more to be done. Taking care of our Shipmates exemplifies our Navy core values of Honor, Courage and Commitment.

What we have accomplished thus far is exemplified by the model we’ve put in place at Great Lakes, where the Navy’s newest Sailors are trained.

Here, we have proven that we can significantly reduce the number of sexual assaults. Training Support Center Great Lakes represents one case where education and training helped reduce sexual assaults by 62 percent.

How was this accomplished?

On only the second day of boot camp, recruits receive an introduction to sexual assault prevention. While still at boot camp, recruits receive additional basic training on applicable Uniform Code of Military Justice articles, details of the Sexual Assault Prevention and Response program with an emphasis on restricted and unrestricted reporting, and a brief on the relationship between Navy Core Values and respectful interpersonal behavior.

Once Sailors graduate from boot camp, the emphasis shifts to small-group, gender-specific and bystander intervention training similar to that presented in the “No Zebras” campaign, which is designed to help Sailors recognize and interpret sexual assault and demonstrate how to take purposeful action.

The impact these preventative measures have had at Great Lakes is encouraging and something that we will continue to do.

This is not the only example of how the Navy is working to eliminate sexual assault, however. Significant efforts have been made across the fleet over the course of the last year and much has been accomplished.

Some of these steps and achievements include:

  • Educating our Sailors about the responsible use of alcohol and its relationship to sexual assault
  • Promoting peer mentoring groups such as the Coalition of Sailors Against Destructive Decisions, which produced a bystander intervention video for Sailors, by Sailors
  • Continuing to collect data to determine the effectiveness of the SAPR program and the scope of sexual assaults within the Navy
  • Sending teams to visit training sites to gain insight into the training environment.
  • Enhancing sexual assault training for Naval Criminal Investigative Service investigators and Navy Judge Advocate Generals
  • Creating an NCIS hotline for reporting sexual assaults via website or text message
  • Hiring 11 NCIS additional agents to work with local law enforcement
  • Increasing the number of sexual assault response coordinators and full-time victim advocates
  • Updating procedures to support expedited transfer options for victims
  • Raising the initial disposition authority to officers at the O-6 (captain) level for the most serious offenses
  • Comprehensive leadership training completed for those in positions of authority with a focus on the realities of sexual assault by challenging the myths and social norms that surround the crime
  • Training for all E-6 and below stressing command climate, accountability for leadership, and bystander intervention
  • SAPR training at Command Leadership School – given to all prospective senior enlisted leaders, executive officers, and commanding officers
  • Publishing a Commander’s Guide featuring SAPR-related guidance and information
  • Collaborative efforts by local and regional commands since 2011 in a pilot prevention program have resulted in a 72 percent reduction in reports of rape and sodomy over the last 18 months as compared to the previous 18 months

We recognize that we cannot eliminate sexual assault overnight, but we are taking steps to aggressively address the issue, an issue we must courageously combat, together, as a Navy.

Our theme for the month is “Courage” with a sub-theme for each week:

  • Week of April 1: Courage to Learn
  • Week of April 8: Courage to Prevent
  • Week of April 15: Courage to Intervene
  • Week of April 22: Courage to Support
  • Week of April 29: Courage to Commit

Help raise awareness by joining the conversation on social media using #SexualAssault and #SAAPM.

More information on Navy sexual assault prevention, posters and other tools are also posted to Navy Personnel Command’s Sexual Assault and Prevention website at http://www.sapr.navy.mil.