“She was embarrassed. She was afraid that people would negatively judge her. She was afraid of repercussions from the command; that nobody would believe her. But most of all, she was afraid to report it. She, then, separated from the Navy after her first enlistment.” – ITC Megan C. Gibbs, Sexual Assault Prevention and Response representative aboard USS James E. Williams (DDG 95)
For more than 230 years, Sailors have been “taking care of Sailors.” Sexual assaults pose considerable threats to that togetherness and to the individual. Sexual Assault Prevention is also an important element of readiness for the 21st century Sailor and Marine. The initiative consolidates a set of objectives and policies, new and existing, to maximize Sailor and Marine personal readiness, build resiliency and hone the most combat-effective force in the history of our team.
Spreading awareness of sexual assault is a cause that should be taken to the deckplates to prevent stories like this from ever happening again. ITC Megan C. Gibbs and service members from all branches of the military have banded together in solidarity to recognize Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM).
The goal of SAAM is to reduce sexual assault through direct and sustained engagement of all hands. One example of this effort is the Sailors aboard Megan’s ship, the James E. Williams, who are actively participating in the effort to raise awareness of the impact sexual assault has on both the individual and the crew by placing teal ribbons and posters around the ship, and conducting training and counseling for the crew.
SAPR representatives provide immediate assistance to sexually assaulted victims including resources for medical care, and proper reporting procedures. While response is necessary in dealing with the fallout of sexual assault, SAPR representatives incorporate a variety of training aids to educate the crew on what sexual assault is, how it can thwart the mission, and what resources are available to victims.
“Some people have it stuck in their mind that because she didn’t say ‘no,’ or the person was ‘asking for it’, that the perpetrator feels it’s acceptable to engage in sexual acts with the victim,” said Hospital Corpsman 2nd Class Ashley R. Thomson, a SAPR victim advocate aboard James E. Williams. “But is really comes down to ‘no’ means ‘no’, because without consent it’s sexual assault.”
Although victimized, the individual assaulted is not the only one affected. It puts a strain on both the victim and the command. The command could end up losing the Sailors involved, or the Sailor may become mentally unfit to do their job. The effects of sexual assault can erode operational readiness and create a tense and high-pressure workplace, which can lead to a breakdown in performance.
“It makes people worry that it can happen to them; their shipmates, their friends, and they can be constantly uneasy about what happened to them, or they can breakdown and shut everything out,” said Ashley.
By making the program noticeable around James E. Williams through flyers, sexual assault ribbons, and by providing resources for the crew, SAPR advocates work to prevent sexual assault and ensure victims receive the proper attention, said Thomson.
Help raise awareness by joining the conversation on social media using #SAAM.