With a single act a life might never be the same.
Sexual assault is being brought to light as Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM) begins in April. SAAM has been observed annually since 2001, and President Barack Obama first proclaimed April as SAAM in 2009. The teal ribbon is traditionally observed as the symbol for the movement.
In the United States, approximately 3.7 million women are sexually assaulted each year. The Navy, along with other military branches, also suffers from unusually high prevalence of sexual assault as over 600 individuals were sexually assaulted in fiscal year 2010 alone.
"To alert you to the scale of the problem, statistics indicate sexual assaults occur in our Navy on average three times a day," said Rear Adm. Denny Moynihan, Chief of Information. "This is simply unacceptable."
SAAM in the Navy looks to break down the barriers around talking about an admittedly uncomfortable topic by discussing the issue around 4 themes: Hurts One, Affects All, Prevention is Everyone's Duty, and We Will Not Tolerate Sexual Assault.
Sailors will attend educational standdowns throughout the month, and a multitude of events will be taking place throughout NDW. This week, particular focus is being put on the effect sexual assault has on the individual, the victim, of sexual assault.
The individual victim can be anyone, and no one is immune because of gender or any other factors. Besides the obvious physical trauma of an assault, the emotional effects can be far-reaching and devastating. According to the Pennsylvania Council Against Rape, effects can include denial, helplessness, dislike of sex, anger, self-blame, anxiety, shame, nightmares, fear, depression, flashbacks, guilt, rationalization, mood-swings, numbness, promiscuity, loneliness, social anxiety, difficulty trusting oneself or others, and difficulty concentrating. These effects can last for years, and in some cases, the rest of one's life.
"We are committed to preventing sexual assault, and we are dedicated to ensuring victims of sexual assault have access to the resources they need, to include medical care, counseling, criminal investigation support and much more," said Commander, Navy Installations Command Vice Adm. William D. French.
The emphasis on the individual this week is to ensure that all Sailors know, no matter whom they are, that the victims of sexual assaults "are their shipmates". It is unrealistic for one to assume that sexual assault is not their problem since it affects those shipmates, and by extension, his or herself.
"Our Navy has made good progress over the years in reducing sexual assaults, but we're still not where we need to be," said NDW Command Master Chief Leland Moore. "GMT's, standdowns, and awareness of resources available such as hotline numbers and command SAPR's will help Sailors be prepared to act in preventing sexual assaults."