By Julia Strange
Special contributor to Navy Installations Command Public Affairs
When I came on board to Commander Navy Installations Command Headquarters nearly five years ago as the newest team member of the Sexual Assault Prevention and Response program, I had no idea how much the program was going to evolve in the coming years.
Since establishment of the program in 1994, the Navy SAPR program has been continually augmented by additional evidence-based approaches in an effort to better serve victims of sexual assault while also getting ahead of the problem through primary prevention. For example, deployed resiliency counselors are now located on all large-deck ships, providing advocacy to sexual assault victims as well as those who desire general counseling support. The Navy has also implemented initiatives such as roving barracks patrols, whose leadership presence help prevent potentially harmful situations from escalating where Sailors live and frequently socialize.
My work at CNIC Headquarters SAPR has focused on prevention, the concept that sexual assault can be prevented before it occurs, with the long-term goal of eradicating sexual assault. I love prevention work because it requires a sense of hope about the progress we’ve made and can continue to make. Through implementation of prevention strategies such as intervention training, Sailors can learn skills to effectively step up and step in if they see behaviors that could lead to a sexual assault. Leadership has also received ongoing education on how they can improve command climate to support prevention efforts. Both supportive leaders and the passion of our Sailors involved in organizations such as the Coalition of Sailors Against Destructive Decisions give me hope that this goal is achievable.
As we continue the long-term work of primary prevention, CNIC Headquarters SAPR also works to execute sexual assault response to ensure that victims receive the support and care they need to heal. We work with a variety of stakeholders inside and outside of CNIC. The DoD Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office provides overarching guidance to all the services through instructions and supporting guidance. The Secretary of the Navy and OPNAV N172 offices provide Navy-specific instructions and guidance. CNIC’s role is to execute policy by providing SAPR personnel in the field with policy guidance, tools, and ongoing training.
There are many different stakeholders involved in the Navy SAPR program, however only one group can truly be named the “heart” of the program – our Navy sexual assault response coordinators. These 96 Navy SARCs manage the SAPR program at 80 installations around the world, frequently collaborating with both military and civilian partners to provide top-notch advocacy and support to sexual assault victims, while also running a robust prevention program. During FY14, the Navy SAPR program provided services to nearly 1,300 sexual assault victims. Based at installation Fleet and Family Support Centers, SARCs are the true heart of the SAPR program. We here at CNIC Headquarters SAPR focus much of our daily energy on developing guidance, tools, training and resources to support the SARCs’ work in the field. In the past few years, we’ve updated the SAPR Commander’s Toolkit for briefing commanding officers on the program, as well as released an annual Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month Toolkit to assist SARCs with planning events across the enterprise during April. We rely on ongoing feedback from the field to ensure we are providing the most useful resources, and utilize a SAPR advisory group made up of regional SARCs, SARCs, and civilian SAPR victim advocates, as well as periodic surveys and check-ins with the regional SARCs to identify best practices that can be shared across the enterprise as well as opportunities for deckplate engagement.
Editor’s note: Julia Strange is a program analyst for the Navy Sexual Assault Prevention and Response program under Navy Installations Command.