By Cmdr. Lyn Hammer
U.S. Naval Academy Sexual Assault Prevention and Response (SAPR) Program Manager
Today the White House officially launched the “It’s On Us” Campaign. It is an unprecedented national cultural movement, addressing prevention of sexual assault and is designed to inspire commitment not just from college students, but our society at large.
VADM Carter, participated today in this White House event, and we all look forward to the Naval Academy’s important role in this campaign. Stand by for the creativity and positive energy unique to midshipmen and that we have come to expect when they rally behind a worthy cause!
In our last blog, we laid out how the Naval Academy takes SAPR extremely seriously and how the academy family is committed to being part of the solution and of creating an environment of dignity and mutual respect for all. We work hard every day to truly commit to these ideals and remain flexible in our approach. Our SAPR program continues to evolve, and we are smarter in identifying behavior, and wiser in knowing how and when to step in. Our Response Team is institutionally recognized for their role and has received full support and respect for confidentiality in care. Are we at the finish line? Absolutely not, and I would argue, there is no finish line.
This past year our service academy counterparts were committed to collaborating. We brought cadets and midshipmen together for the first time in April at West Point to specifically talk about sexual harassment and assault prevention. They also talked about the challenges of peer leadership, and the many influences on culture and sub-cultures at service academies. Students compared programs and ideas; confronted challenges; and learned each academy’s best-practices, and it was clear we all had clear strengths.
There has been an increased focus on sexual assaults on civilian colleges and universities, and they are being challenged to address this, as a priority, on their campuses. In this regard, I have had the privilege in participating in a growing number of civilian institutional forums, including the Dartmouth Summit on Sexual Assault on College Campuses. At this particular event, I was among over 200 civilian counterparts and experts in the field, participating in a broad range of discussions as well as problem solving on the working group level. Collaborating with civilian institutions, I have learned that no matter which institution we represent, we all want to make significant, positive change and to help each other get there.
The White House Task Force to Protect Students from Sexual Assault released a report this past May, titled Not Alone, outlining a number of action steps and recommendations for colleges and universities. It was rewarding to note that the Naval Academy has already been hard at work on each of these steps. USNA values, for example, student climate surveys and the important feedback they provide. Another key step in Not Alone addressed the importance of a comprehensive, response plan when a student is sexually assaulted. During this past year USNA put tremendous effort in re-invigorating and building trust in our sexual assault response team. We hired two new Sexual Assault Response Coordinators and two new Victim Advocates. This team works very hard to be recognized, approachable members of the Academy. The addition of a Victim’s Legal Counsel is an important piece of the response plan. Our responders recognize the importance of successfully meeting the unique and individual needs of a victim of sexual assault.
The Naval Academy is leading the way among colleges and universities in training, educating, preventing and responding to sexual assault. We are committed to an environment of dignity and mutual respect for all. It’s On Us!