As Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM) continues throughout the rest of April, Naval District Washington (NDW) leaders are hoping the lessons learned during the outreach campaigns gain momentum throughout the rest of the year.
Kim Reese, NDW Regional Sexual Assault Response Coordinator (SARC), said turnout at events have been high in the first two weeks of this year’s campaign. The theme across the Navy for this year’s initiative is “Live our Values: Step Up to Stop Sexual Assault.”
“So much of what we’re focusing on is the bystander piece,” said Reese, referring to the bystander intervention efforts being taught. “We really think that with some training and education, people can begin to recognize some of the signals that there might be a problem.”
Through seminars, information fairs, fitness programs, and similar outreach efforts, Reese and other SARCs are hoping to educate Sailors and civilian personnel about the impact of preventing sexual assault and how to respond to future incidents.
“The biggest part of moving forward is not letting it just be another month of recognition and we move into May and we don’t talk about it anymore,” said Kim Agnew, a SARC at Naval Support Activity (NSA) Bethesda. “The only way we can do that is just to continue to be visible in the community and not just let it be about the month of April.”
Agnew said installation leaders have been coming forward in the last two weeks to request more in-depth training for their commands. Such training, she added, offers a chance for people to start conversations and ask questions they might not be able to in larger groups.
After April draws to a close, SARCs and other Sexual Assault Prevention and Response (SAPR) advocates will be hosting smaller events and staffing information tables throughout the year to maintain awareness. Agnew said she has seen more people coming forward to inquire about the SAPR program and how to help victims.
“We really want to emphasize the importance of intervening and how it is one of the most important factors of preventing sexual assault,” she said. “The only way for us to make a difference is stepping up at the lowest level of incidents.”
Agnew said many times, people may witness inappropriate behaviors and be unsure about how to respond, or if the situation might be considered sexual harassment or assault, and question if they should intervene.
“It may be uncomfortable to ask the question,” said Agnew, “but that part of where it says ‘Step Up’ means you may be put into a position where you are uncomfortable. I would rather you take a chance at being uncomfortable and knowing you potentially stopped something from happening, versus learning later that the sexual assault occurred.”
Reese said the bottom line for people to keep in mind moving forward is remembering the theme for the month—stepping up. “Everybody can make a difference, and it’s everybody’s responsibility,” she said.
SAAM activities at Washington Navy Yard are set to culminate with an information fair and barbecue April 22, and Joint Base Anacostia-Bolling is hosting a half marathon scheduled for April 26.
For listings of more SAAM-related events and activities in NDW, visit www.facebook.com/NavDistWash.
For help or support, call the NDW SAPR hotline at 202-258-6717, or the DOD Safe helpline at 877-995-5247. You can also confidentially live chat with a representative at www.safehelpline.org.