By Chief of Naval Personnel Public Affairs
As we mark the end of April and Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month (SAAPM), we spoke this week with MCPON Mike Stevens on the importance of utilizing prevention efforts to reduce sexual assault in the Navy.
MCPON explains why treating others with dignity and respect goes a long way in reducing the numbers.
“If we treated each other with the dignity and respect that others and we deserve, then in many ways this problem, this significant challenge we have with sexual assault, just goes away.”
MC2 Burleson: Welcome, I’m here with MCPON Stevens to discuss SAPR, and ways to encourage more Sailors to take a stand and to intervene to help prevent sexual assaults. MCPON, thank you for being here today.
MCPON: Thank you Petty Officer Burleson; good to see you again.
MC2 Burleson: What is the message you would like to get out to Sailors as we continue throughout this month?
MCPON: You know the thing I’d like to share with our Sailors primarily is this, there’s a lot of training that we have done and that we’re doing, and I’m confident we will continue to do, in our effort to combat sexual assault. The one thing I think we all need to be mindful of, what’s most important, is that we remember to treat each other with dignity and respect. If we treated each other with the dignity and respect that we and others deserve, then in many ways this problem, this significant challenge we have with sexual assault, just goes away. So lets remember to treat each other with dignity and respect.
MC2 Burleson: Right, so you have a young Sailor out there, he sees something, he knows something, but he’s hesitant to say something. Who should he talk to? How should he go about that?
MCPON: Well I would say that every Sailor that observes anything, whether it’s sexual assault or anything that is being done that is inappropriate, has not just the responsibility, but also the duty to ensure that the information is passed to the right people. And there are a number of people we can communicate that with. You can talk with your immediate supervisor; you can talk with your chief petty officer, your division officer, all the way up. No one should turn you away if you’re bringing something that’s being done inappropriately to their attention. Then of course we have our victim advocates that are trained in this area that they can speak to, and all the others that are involved in the prevention of sexual assault. So again, regardless of what it is, make sure that it is bought to someone’s attention, and no one should turn you away. Don’t feel like if the person you want to talk to is not there that you can’t go to somebody else. Because doing it in a timely fashion is just as important.
MC2 Burleson: One of CNO’s five initiatives is to educate Sailors on alcohol abuse. How does alcohol in your opinion factor in to sexual assaults?
MCPON: Well it should be something that everybody is aware of. We shouldn’t be strangers to this. But when a person drinks alcohol, especially when they drink it to excess, it impairs their judgment. I’ve seen some of the best Sailors with the best intentions, that have indulged in alcohol more then they should, make decisions that they otherwise would never have made. So I know that people go into an environment or situation oftentimes and they say to themselves that I’m not going to do this, but soon as they have one or more drinks then they should, then that facility, that ability to make those rational decisions just goes away. So the best thing to do is to abstain from alcohol completely if you don’t have the ability to control how much you drink, or to recognize that your tolerance level is one or two drinks. Then you just kind of stop at that point because once you go beyond that, you lose those facilities to make those rational judgments.
MC2 Burleson: Talking all these things in our work centers, why is it important to talk about SAPR in an open forum in our work centers openly with others?
MCPON: SAPR is a subject that should not be taboo. It’s not something we should be ashamed to talk about, fearful to talk about, or shy away from. The more that we talk about it, the more comfortable we become with this conversation and this discussion, the more likely we are able to head off sexual assault before it ever occurs. If you’re open and honest about it, you may encourage someone else to talk about it. They might have something to bring to the conversation that’s extremely important in either preventing sexual assault, or talking about something they know that has occurred. I would encourage every one of all pay grades to fill comfortable talking about sexual assault, and again we shouldn’t treat it as taboo.
MC2 Burleson: Sexual assault awareness and prevention month is only this month. Looking forward, how do we continue to reduce the numbers?
MCPON: Maybe sexual assault awareness month is technically and officially one month out of the year, but the truth of the matter is sexual assault prevention month is every month; every day; every hour; every minute; every second of the year. Lets not feel like this is a fire and forget evolution that we are dealing with here. This is a fire for effect, on target, all the time, every day.
MC2 Burleson: MCPON that’s all I have for you. Thank you for joining me, and thank you all for watching. Be sure to check out the SAAPM toolkit at SAPR.NAVY.MIL, which will help you prepare for sexual assault prevention at your command.