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Navy to hold sex assault training standdowns

Mar. 29, 2012 - 05:59PM   |   Last Updated: Mar. 29, 2012 - 05:59PM  |  
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Navy officials have declared April as Sexual Assault Awareness Month, calling for educational standdowns to communicate the service's policy of zero tolerance for sexual assault while encouraging more in the ranks to work harder to prevent attacks.

"Sexual assault is a crime that erodes our operational readiness and requires leadership from all levels of the chain of command," Vice Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Mark Ferguson wrote Wednesday in">NAVADMIN 106/12, which announced the event. "We must operationalize sexual assault prevention and response by creating and maintaining a professional work environment, caring for our people, discouraging alcohol abuse and ensuring a positive liberty environment."

Starting April 2, each week of the month will have a theme, such as educating sailors on how sexual assault affects individuals as well as commands. Other training will stress everyone's responsibility in preventing sexual assault and reiterating the Navy's zero-tolerance stance.

In the message, Ferguson mandates that "at a minimum, units must conduct a total of two hours of sexual assault awareness via a standdown," the message said. That two hours can be done at one time, or, preferably, the message says, in four 30-minute blocks, one each week.

Completion reports from all commands must be sent to the office of the chief of naval personnel by May 15.

Officials say they hope commands will do more than the minimum and have posted possible activities on Navy Personnel Command's">sexual assault prevention and response website.

Suggestions range from writing articles for base newspapers to holding drills and other awareness events and suggestions such as linking to the Navy's SAPR Web page from a command's website.

The services are under pressure from Congress and advocacy groups to act.

Navy Secretary Ray Mabus also has highlighted the issue.

During the Navy Department's 2011 Sexual Assault Prevention Summit in May, Mabus said his daily operational briefings nearly always contain a report of a sexual assault on a sailor or Marine, and that there were 900 reports in fiscal 2010.

"That's almost three every … single … day of the year," Mabus said, pausing slightly for emphasis. "Three times a day, somebody that wears the uniform of this country, and has sworn to defend it and protect it, is being assaulted. Three times a day.

"If somebody was being shot at three times a day, we would do something about it," Mabus said. "This ought to make us mad."

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