By Douglas H Stutz, Naval Hospital Bremerton Public Affairs
Naval Hospital Bremerton’s (NHB) Sexual Assault Prevention and Response (SAPR) Program victim advocates are taking their message directly to as many people as possible to reinforce April as Sexual Assault Prevention and Awareness Month (SAAPM).
Throughout the month, the victim advocates are hosting an informational table to share insight, discuss uncomfortable truths, and engage others to show support by signing a pledge to end sexual assault and harassment in the military.
“It’s still a real problem in our military. It is still happening,” said Master-at-Arms 2nd Class Mackenzie Snell, from Seattle, Wash. one of the three victim advocates manning the informational table.
“We need to end the stigma of even talking about it. It’s a difficult subject to deal with, but it is okay to talk about (it),” added Hospital Corpsman 2nd Class Jodiann Tracey.
Victim advocates such as Snell and Tracey are specially trained to assist victims in dealing with the struggling aftermath of a sexual assault by advising them on such procedures as reporting options and various resources. They are there to listen, guide and console any sexual assault victim.
“Sexual assault is a problem that is bigger than we think. Kudos to our SAPR victim advocate team for the support they provide which is critical. Our victim advocates are all on call 24/7,” said Capt. David K. Weiss, NHB Commanding Officer.
Tracey notes that by having the SAAPM information table prominently displayed during the month on a weekly basis, they are hoping to show that sexual assault and harassment does happen, discussing it helps to spread a heightened sense of alertness, and that there are resources available to help deal with such a crime.
“Our informational table is a good reminder that everyone is needed to help eradicate sexual assault. Having command victim advocates standing here asking questions and sharing a conversation on uncomfortable truths is a very real way to help get the message across that we want sexual assault and harassment out of Navy. We want it gone!” exclaimed Tracey, an Upper Darby, Penn. native.
NHB victim advocates began the month-long awareness campaign with a ‘Chalk the Walk’ project that pointed out some of those uncomfortable truths. There are some studies that show that one in every four woman will be sexually assaulted sometime in their life and one in every 10 men. It was also shared that such data does not include those who can’t, don’t, or won’t come forward.
Along with the command’s victim advocates taking on a proactive, visible role in the SAAPM campaign, NHB also is featuring other awareness events throughout the month. The marquee at the gate entrance has key-note messages, there’s a Command Master Chief 5K SAAPM remembrance run planned for April 14, and command involvement in a SAAPM Informational Carnival on April 28 at Naval Base Kitsap Bangor.
SAAPM is recognized in April in both the military and civilian communities. The Department of Defense observes SAAPM by focusing on creating the appropriate culture to eliminate sexual assault and requiring a personal commitment from all service members at every level.
By ceremonial signing of the pledge, everyone affirms that they are part of the ‘we have the watch’ principle to stopping sexual assault. The pledge reminds all that ‘We are Sailors, Soldier, Marines and civilians. We are fathers, mothers, sons, daughters, brothers and sisters. Our mission is to eradicate sexual assault from our community. We know our part; we have been educated and trained. We know the enemy and they are in our sights. We are committed to intervening. We will do our part. If we see a crime, we will step up. We will step in, we will prevent it. We are a team, a family, a community standing together. Together our voice will be heard. We have the watch.’
There are currently 13 victim advocates at the command with 10 others awaiting certification or enrolled in training.