Naval Hospital Jacksonville recognizes Sexual Assault Awareness Month

By Yan Kennon Naval Hospital Jacksonville Public Affairs

Naval Hospital (NH) Jacksonville recognizes April as Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM), focusing on awareness and prevention.

The theme of the Department of Defense’s (DoD) tenth awareness month is “Live Our Values: Step Up to Stop Sexual Assault.”  The theme asks everyone to live the values every day, all year long—step up by intervening when appropriate, reporting crimes and supporting victims.

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“We all play a role in the fight against sexual assault—with the commitment to eliminate it from our ranks”, said Capt. Gayle Shaffer, NH Jacksonville’s commanding officer.  “We must first foster a professional command climate that encourages sexual assault victims to report these crimes, and hold perpetrators accountable.  If we work together, we can create a culture that does not tolerate sexual assault.”

Sexual assault is defined as any type of sexual contact or behavior that occurs without explicit consent.  In 2013, DoD reissued its Sexual Assault Prevention and Response (SAPR) Strategic Plan to ensure the entire DoD worked together towards ending sexual assault.

According to the U.S. Department of Justice’s National Crime Victimization Survey, an average of 237,868 sexual assaults occur each year—about one every two minutes.  Of these, two-thirds are committed by someone known to the victim.

Sadly, about 60 percent of sexual assaults go unreported, making it one of the most under-reported crimes in the U.S.

DoD tracks both “unrestricted” and “restricted” cases.  Unrestricted cases are reported through the chain of command, while restricted reports are made confidentially—allowing sailors to get help without reporting it through their chains of command or law enforcement.

According to the DoD Safe Helpline, there are many steps to reduce the risk.  Common sense, situational awareness and trusting one’s instincts are key.  Other tips include: consume alcohol only in moderation; never leave beverages unattended or accept a drink from an open container; communicate limits and expectations clearly with others; inform close friends when going on a date with a new person; walk only in lighted areas if it’s dark; have extra money to get home; and have a plan for someone to call for help. 

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One of the most effective methods of preventing sexual assault is active bystander intervention. 

The three components to active bystander intervention are: recognizing when to intervene, considering whether the situation needs attention and deciding if there is a responsibility to act.  The active bystander approach encourages people to identify situations that might lead to a sexual assault and then safely intervene to prevent an assault from occurring.

Remember, everyone has the right to say “No,” even if they first say “Yes.”  

The Navy’s SAPR Program is an ongoing effort to prevent and respond to sexual assault.  Its goal is to eliminate sexual assault from the ranks, while preserving Navy mission readiness.

Command SAPR program managers are responsible for ensuring all Navy employees—military and civilian—are properly trained. 

“There is zero-tolerance for sexual assault in the Navy,” said Lt. Hillary Sivik, NH Jacksonville’s SAPR program manager.  “There are a wide variety of resources available to help cope with any acts of sexual violence.  We want to ensure victims that they will be taken care of, and encourage them to speak up.”

During the entire month of April, NH Jacksonville will conduct command-wide training to build awareness.  In addition, NH Jacksonville will combine efforts with Naval Air Station (NAS) Jacksonville’s sexual assault response coordinator (SARC) on numerous base-wide sexual assault educational events.  This year’s events will include a SAAM proclamation signing, health fair, self-defense classes, all-hands SAPR standdown (with SAPR Victim Advocates on-hand to answer questions) and a 5K/10K support run.

Wrapping up this year’s SAAM activities, a “Take Back the Night” event will be held April 30 at NAS Jacksonville’s Patriots Grove.  This nationally recognized event is an avenue for people to take a stand and speak out against all forms of sexual violence.  The event will feature music, poetry, educational information and a candle-light tribute to sexual assault survivors.

Sexual Assault Prevention and Response is also an important element of the readiness aspect of the 21st Century Sailor and Marine initiative.  The Navy works aggressively to prevent sexual assaults, to support sexual assault victims, and to hold offenders accountable.

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Anyone in immediate danger should call 911 (in the U.S.).  To report a sexual assault, call the DoD Safe Helpline at 877-995-5247, NAS Jacksonville duty SAPR Victim Advocate at 904-910-9075, NAS Jacksonville SARC at 904-548-7789 or Naval Station Mayport SARC at 904-548-8392.

NH Jacksonville’s priority since its founding in 1941 is to heal the nation’s heroes and their families. The command is comprised of the Navy’s third largest hospital and five branch health clinics across Florida and Georgia.  Of its patient population—about 163,000 active and retired sailors, soldiers, Marines, airmen, guardsmen and their families—more than 63,000 are enrolled with a primary care manager at one of its facilities.  To find out more, visit the command website at www.med.navy.mil/sites/NavalHospitalJax.