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The month of April is nationally known as Sexual Assault Awareness Month and its aim is to raise consciousness about sexual violence and educate communities and individuals on how to prevent it.

Naval Support Activity Bethesda (NSAB) kicked off Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM) with a small ceremony sponsored by the Sexual Assault Prevention and Response (SAPR) office Tuesday.

This year’s theme for SAMM is “Live Our Values, Step Up and Stop Sexual Assault.”

“'Live Our Values’ means every service member at every level in our military must adhere to and internalize core service values and higher standards of behavior,” said Chief of the Maternal Child Nursing Department Lt. Col. Editha D. Ruiz. Ruiz also stated, “we continue to strive for an environment where professional values, team commitment and respect define how we treat one another at every command, workplace, and throughout our military community.”

NSAB’s SAPR office and the U.S. Army’s Sexual Harassment/Assault Response and Prevention (SHARP) Programs work together to challenge all service members to reinforce personal and unit commitments to eliminate the crime of sexual assault at NSA Bethesda.

“We provide prevention and training to everyone assigned to the installation to include initial response and advocacy support services to active duty service and family members (18 years or older), retirees, DoD Civilians, and contractors,” explained NSAB Sexual Assault Response Program Coordinator Kimberley Agnew. “Our policy is to turn no one away and to have the resources to properly assist with obtaining immediate support.”

NSAB’s SAPR office is focusing its attention on the important part the community plays in preventing and stopping sexual assault.

“Bystander intervention is a part of step up to stop sexual violence,” said NSAB Sexual Assault Response Coordinator Michelle Herrera. “Education and bystander intervention are key components in helping to prevent or stop sexual assault. Bystander intervention gives the community specific roles that they can use in preventing sexual assault before it occurs. By being a bystander, you can intervene in situations that may lead to a sexual assault, step in during an incident or speak out against gender-focused jokes, sexual comments and vulgar pictures.”

At the SAAM kickoff ceremony, NSAB Commanding Officer Capt. David A. Bitonti stated, “This is a critical time, not only in our Navy but in our country and we have the opportunity to affect change.” Bitonti also stated, “we have the opportunity to make a difference by simply stepping up and saying something. This month is about focusing on raising awareness for sexual assault and the prevention efforts to go along with it. You all can make a difference; you all can bring about that change.”

During April, several activities are planned at NSAB and Walter Reed National Military Medical Center to educate of the goals of SAAM.

In addition to the demonstration of support for victims and advocates, the display of teal ribbons throughout the community conveys a powerful message that there’s no place for assault in homes, neighborhoods, schools or workplaces.

Events for the month include information tables, a bowling event, Denim Day USA and a defense class. Join the base to ‘strike out’ Sexual Assault and bowl for a good cause. To honor Denim Day, people are encouraged to wear jeans to work in order to promote awareness. The R.A.D. basic self defense class will be held on Friday April 25 from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. in Building 11. Space is limited; please call 301-319-4087 to register.

For more information on how to prevent sexual assault contact the SAPR office at 301-319-4087.