By Rear Adm. Margaret Grun Kibben
Chief of Navy Chaplains
This year’s theme: Know Your Part, Do Your Part reminds us that we all have a role to play in sexual assault awareness, prevention and bystander intervention so collectively we can eliminate sexual assault from our ranks.
All across the Navy, Sailors are coming together to take ownership of this issue and reinforce who we are, what we stand for, and the Core Values we each embody: honor, courage, and commitment.
Plain and simple: There is nothing honorable or courageous about allowing sexual assault to happen. It is a heinous crime that destroys the commitment we’ve made to each other and destroys readiness.
Last week, I participated in an awareness walk at Joint Base Little Creek-Fort Story. I appreciate that the name of this walk was updated as of last year from “Walk a Mile in Her Shoes” to “Walk a Mile in Their Shoes” to ensure all survivors of sexual assault are supported. After all, sexual assault is not specific to gender, race, ethnicity, creed, rank or service branch. While reporting has increased among female service members, we are still confronting gaps in male reporting and issues of professional and social retaliation for those who do report.
Know your part.
We are Sailors in and out of uniform, and our actions must reflect our core values every day. Respectful behavior begins with each one of us. We all have a responsibility to create an environment of professionalism, trust and respect.
Do our part.
We each need to speak up and end this crime. And that can take a great deal of moral courage to do the right thing; to speak out when you see something that doesn’t seem right; and to look out for your shipmates and prevent them from making destructive choices that can have unintended and catastrophic outcomes.
I also respect the personal courage it takes to file a report to help the Navy hold perpetrators appropriately accountable. We all must be sensitive in our response to survivors of sexual assault and do what we can to protect them from social and professional retaliation. They need our support, not our exclusion.
Your chaplain is there to support you.
Chaplains, as first responders, are part of the Navy and Marine Corps’ 24/7 response capability for sexual assault survivors. If you have been sexual assaulted, your chaplain is there to support you. We are here to help restore a sense of safety, and to help you heal, regardless of whether you file a formal report.
We provide a completely confidential space for sexual assault survivors to share their story and explore their options in complete privacy. We are not here to adjudicate what happened or compel a survivor to report; rather we are here to walk with our people on the road to recovery as they regain a sense of wholeness and hope.
We view this relationship as a sacred trust, rooted in the fact that chaplains are bound by complete confidentiality. What you say to us stays between us, unless you decide differently. You own the confidential disclosure. Chaplains have the professional obligation to protect and guard what is disclosed to them in trust, and commanders honor and support the unique, confidential relationship between an individual and a chaplain.
Contrary to popular belief, chaplains are not mandatory reporters nor do we receive restricted reports. We help educate our people on their reporting options and the support resources available to them which can include connecting them with our partners-in-care like the victim advocate, the SARC, behavioral health and medical.
In terms of prevention, chaplains help strengthen the moral and ethical foundation of our Sailors, Marines, and Coast Guardsmen through one-on-one pastoral counseling as well as through chaplain-led command training.
If you’ve never connected with your chaplain before, I encourage you to do so. If you don’t know who your nearest chaplain is, call 1-855-NAVY-311 to be connected with a chaplain in your area.
I challenge each of us to remember who we are, where we came from, and what we represent, and to take for action this year’s theme: Eliminate Sexual Assault: Know your part, Do your part.
Learn more about how the Navy Chaplain Corps supports you: