Published on April 9th, 2015 | by The Kitsap Scene0
Queried, quizzed and questioned about Sexual Assault Prevention and Awareness at Naval Hospital Bremerton
By Douglas Stutz
BREMERTON, Wash. – Naval Hospital Bremerton’s victim advocates are taking their message directly to the deck-plates throughout the month to ensure that as many staff members and beneficiaries as possible understand that April is Sexual Assault Prevention and Awareness Month.
At the Sexual Assault Prevention and Awareness Month informational table set up outside the Terrance Dining Facility April 7, Hospital Corpsman 2nd Class Danny Browning of Family Medicine, HM2 Nathan Cole of the Orthopedic Clinic, Hospital Corpsman 3rd Class Taylor Ellison of NHB’s General Surgery, and HM3 Andreas Arenas of OB/GYN clinic manned the setup during peak lunch time. They queried, quizzed and questioned passersby with sexual assault facts, figures and uncomfortable realities.
“It’s beneficial for us to be out here in a major traffic area during lunch time with a lot of people. We’re here to let everyone know that we’re approachable and that anyone can come to us for help, for questions, for support,” said Ellison, who has been a victim advocate for two years.
Victim advocates such as Ellison are specially trained to assist victims in deal with the struggling aftermath of an sexual assault by advising them on such procedures as reporting options and various resources. As a victim advocate, Ellison brings not only personal insight, but quiet strength to his volunteer duties in helping to listen, guide and console a sexual assault victim. She is one of 15 victim advocates currently at the command, with three more in the pipeline and another five enrolled in the April training for their official certification.
Ellison notes that by having the SAAPM information table prominently displayed, they are hoping to show that the crime does happen, and if it does, there are ready resources available.
“Really, what’s the real number? Some studies show that one in every four woman will be sexually assaulted sometime in their life and one in every 10 men. And those number don’t include those who can’t or don’t or won’t come forward,” said Ellison.
Compiled local statistics from 2006 to 2012 for Naval Base Kitsap show that 16 percent of the victims of sexual assault were male; 53 percent occurred on base; 61 percent were blue on blue (Sailor on Sailor); 70 percent had alcohol involved and 79 percent knew the attacker.
In FY12, overall there were 3,374 reports of sexual assault involving service members. These reports involved one or more service members as either the victim or subject (alleged perpetrator) of an investigation. The 3,374 reports involved a range of crimes prohibited by the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ), from abusive sexual contact to rape. This represents a 6 percent increase over the 3,192 reports of sexual assault received in FY11.
According to Cole, there already is a lot of awareness at NHB with staff members who have volunteered as victim advocates, along with those who have been assigned as Sexual Assault Forensic Examinations (SAFE) examiners and SAFE assistants. But what the month-long campaign really does is help to remind everyone to remain vigilant and not complacent.
“When it comes to something like this there are some Sailors who just think it’s something that can’t happen to them, which is why having us share is important. It does happen. To both male and female. Plus, it lets others know that we’re here to help in any way if someone has a problem. They don’t have to hold it in. They have someone to turn to,” Cole said.
As staff members walked by the table Arenas addressed them by asking how much they knew about sexual assault prevention with such questions as, what’s the difference between restricted and unrestricted reporting?; is there a time limit to report a sexual assault?; are most sexual assaults committed by strangers?; what can you do to help prevent sexual assault?; and if a person has been drinking (alcohol), is it considered sexual assault or consensual?
“These are uncomfortable questions. But they need to be answered now, not after. People tend to avoid wanting to talk about sexual assault. It is a scary topic but not talking about it won’t make it go away,” stressed Ellison.
Along with the command’s victim advocates taking on a proactive, visible role in the SAAPM campaign, NHB also is featuring other awareness events throughout the month. The Information Management department has added a popup graphic onto everyone’s computer periodically, the Marquee at the gate entrance has key-note messages, an Command Master Chief 5K SAAPM remembrance run is planned on April 9, another Sexual Assault Prevention and Response (SAPR) training exercise – NHB started the monthlong campaign with a drill April 1 that focused on how to respond to a sexually assaulted male – and command involvement in a SAAPM Informational Carnival on April 24 at Naval Base Kitsap Bangor.
“Our victim advocates are such a vital and very important part of our entire SAPR program here. They are all the faces of the help we provide to every victim. Having them out here at the information table gets them recognized for being in that victim advocate role. They are showing the program and also showing that they are part of the program,” explained Lt. Angela Sadosky, NHB Sexual Assault Prevention and Response (SAPR) Program coordinator and Occupational Therapist, adding that the SAPR program victim advocates will continue the SAAPM month recognition with the information tables on every Tuesday for the remainder of the month through lunch.
As Lead Victim Advocate, Cole stresses that in the role of a victim advocate, they are not there to judge. It is their responsibility to help and provide support for someone through the entire process. NHB victim advocates receive comprehensive training, and must recertify every two years, to immediately provide front-line, deck-plate prevention, response, and accountability for the safety, dignity, and well-being of any service member in need.
“We know there are those who are scared. Victim advocates are there to take care of someone who just gone through a horrible experience not just medically, but also emotionally. Our job is not to penalize or harm a career, but to get that person the care they need and deserve,” Cole said.
“This month and this theme mean a lot to me. I’m very passionate about doing this and have a lot of empathy and sympathy for those who need our help. Victim advocates have helped me and I want to return the favor in any way I can,” Ellison shared.
Nationally, SAAPM is a monthly commitment to raise awareness and promote the prevention of sexual violence through use of special events and public education. The theme this year is “Eliminate sexual assault. Know your part. Do your part.” The “knowing” and “doing” are direct references to intervene when appropriate, report crimes, and support victims to help stop sexual assault and sexual harassment.
“Sexual assault prevention requires each of us to actively participate and stay engaged in the lives of our shipmates and colleagues. You are leaders at every level. If you see a shipmate who is harassing someone or being harassed, exert your leadership, demonstrate the Navy’s core values and take action – in other words, do your part. We must take care of one another because the safety, dignity, and well-being of our Sailors and Marines is a responsibility we all share,” stated Vice Adm. Matthew L. Nathan, U.S. Navy Surgeon General and chief, U.S. Navy Bureau of Medicine and Surgery in a recent message disseminated throughout Navy Medicine.
The Navy Sexual Assault Prevention and Response (SAPR) Program mission is to prevent and respond to sexual assault, eliminating it through a balanced of focused education, comprehensive response, compassionate advocacy, and just adjudication in order to promote professionalism, respect, and trust, while preserving Navy mission readiness.
The official SAPR website states that SAAPM provides commands/installations an annual opportunity to highlight Department of Defence and service policies addressing sexual assault prevention and response. DoD policies address sexual assault prevention and seek to establish a climate of confidence in which education and training create an environment in which sexual assault and the attitudes that promote it are not tolerated; victims of sexual assault receive the care and support that they need; and, offenders are held accountable for their actions.