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Commands throughout Naval District Washington (NDW) are observing Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM) with events to educate personnel on how to prevent sexual assault and help victims of it. The Department of Defense’s (DOD) theme for this year is “We own it. We’ll solve it. Together.”

“In the last 20 years, our nation has made meaningful progress toward addressing sexual assault,” said President Barack Obama in his National Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month, 2013 presidential proclamation. “Where victims were once left without recourse, laws have opened a path to safety and justice; where a culture of fear once kept violence hidden, survivors are more empowered to speak out and get help. Just as we keep fighting sexual assault in our neighborhoods, we must also recommit to ending it in our military - because no one serving our country should be at risk of assault by a fellow service member. Where this crime does take place, it cannot be tolerated; victims must have access to support, and offenders must face the consequences of their actions.”

Since 2001, SAAM has been observed nationwide and provides commands and installations, as well as civilian organizations, an annual opportunity to highlight DOD and service policies addressing sexual assault prevention and response.

“The month of April has been designated Sexual Assault Awareness Month in the United States, not just the Navy or NDW,” said Kim Reese, regional Sexual Assault Response Coordinator (SARC) for NDW. “Sexual Assault Awareness Month is an annual campaign to raise public awareness about sexual violence and to educate communities and individuals on how to prevent sexual violence.”

The Navy is planning weekly themes to get the SAAM message out during April. The themes are, “Hurts One,” “Affects All,” “Prevention is Everyone’s Duty,” and “We Will Not Tolerate Sexual Assault.” The themes emphasize the Navy’s commitment to addressing sexual assault and impressing upon personnel to look out for their shipmates and prevent such a crime from occurring.

Within the DOD, training and education of service members in sexual assault prevention is a priority year round. Sexual assault prevention and awareness training is mandatory throughout all branches of the military, and the Navy is no exception. Sexual Assault Prevention and Response - Leadership/Fleet (SAPR-L/F) training is required annually of all Navy personnel in an effort to teach Sailors that ending sexual assault in the Navy is every Sailor’s responsibility.

Additionally, commands throughout NDW have SAAM events planned during April. The U.S. Naval academy and Naval Support Activity Annapolis held a SAAM kickoff event April 1, with more events planned through the month. Naval Air Station Patuxent River will be hosting a SAAM 5K run/walk April 20. And the Washington Navy Yard chapter of Sailors Against Destructive Decisions (CSADD) will host a self defense seminar in support of SAAM April 10 at Joint Base Anacostia-Bolling.

Service members and their families can learn more about the resources available to them at 1-877-995-5247 and www.SafeHelpline.org. Additional information is available at the DOD Sexual Assault Prevention and Response website at www.sapr.mil.