WASHINGTON - Throughout April, the Navy joins the nation in observing Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month (SAAPM).
This year's theme, "Protecting Our People Protects Our Mission," established by the DoD Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Office continues to reinforce the idea that our people are our most important strategic resource and that operational success depends on supporting our personnel, protecting our shipmates, and safeguarding team cohesion.
"Sexual assault is a cancer effecting unit cohesion and lethality," said Secretary of the Navy Richard V. Spencer. "The Department of the Navy has come a long way in addressing sexual assault, but until we get to zero, there is still work to be done. My commitment is enduring and fundamental, and my position of intolerance for sexual assault anywhere is unequivocal."
Tolerating toxic behaviors within our ranks impedes our ability to fight and win wars by eroding trust and degrading individuals who contribute to the mission. This awareness month is designed to enhance year-round efforts to eliminate the crime of sexual assault and ensure all Sailors are treated with dignity and respect.
"On our One Navy team, we are dedicated to achieving our best possible performance - we go to our limits. There are no bystanders on our team. On our team, we drive sexual assault to zero," said Chief of Naval Operations Adm. John Richardson. "Sexual assault is a toxic behavior that weakens our team and therefore helps the enemy. On our team, we all build strength and toughness to defeat our enemies. Unit leaders - leading petty officers, chiefs, junior officers - are especially important here - it's why you joined the Navy. No bystanders. Destroy our enemies, not ourselves. End sexual assault."
SAAPM provides the Navy with the opportunity to highlight programs and initiatives that educate Sailors, support victims, and encourage shipmates to take an active role in preventing, reporting, and eliminating sexual assault in the force. Sexual harassment and assault, in person or online, violates the Navy's core values and is not tolerated.
"There is no place for sexual assault in our Navy and Marine Corps," said Ms. Jill V. Loftus, Director of the Navy's Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office. "We need to be there to instinctively step in when necessary and support those who have been victimized. We must do our part to foster a culture based on respect and professionalism."
In an effort to eliminate instances of sexual assault, Navy leadership has issued guidance on online misconduct, established counselors within the Fleet in addition to family support centers, improved personnel management processes to better respond to occurrences of sexual assault, encouraged bystander intervention, and leveraged technology to remove stigma and barriers associated with seeking help following a sexual assault.
"We're looking at new ways to convey the message," Loftus continued. "We're developing preplanned response cards for junior leaders, we have worked on a graphic novel, and we're looking at training utilizing avatars. There are a lot of new and innovative methods that we're exploring that will engage Sailors and keep them engaged."
The Navy's Sexual Assault Prevention and Response (SAPR) program falls under the purview of the 21st Century Sailor office, which exists to provide Sailors and their families with resources, training, and skills to overcome adversity and improve wellness.