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USN enlists community in sex-assault prevention

Feb. 14, 2013 - 02:01PM   |   Last Updated: Feb. 14, 2013 - 02:01PM  |  
The Navy is asking local bars and hotels for help preventing sexual assaults.
The Navy is asking local bars and hotels for help preventing sexual assaults. (Getty Images)
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A new sexual assault prevention program — one that mixes traditional training with community outreach — is expanding beyond Naval Station Great Lakes, Ill., after a successful trial.

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A new sexual assault prevention program — one that mixes traditional training with community outreach — is expanding beyond Naval Station Great Lakes, Ill., after a successful trial.

The program, which asks local businesses to assist in prevention efforts, should land in San Diego in the coming months, officials said, and may be installed elsewhere in the fleet.

The service recorded 496 reports of sexual assault in fiscal 2012, which ended Sept. 30. Of those cases, 80 percent were sailor-on-sailor attacks — and most involved alcohol.

The program began in 2011 as a pilot study at Recruit Training Command and with sailors at Training Support Center Great Lakes. Their training began the second day of boot camp; recruits received 5½ hours of instruction by the time they graduated.

At TSC, sailors had to complete sexual assault prevention briefings: small-group, gender-specific training through what a Navy memo about the program called "edutainment." They received 7½ hours of training, including 4½ hours on how to intervene to prevent sexual assaults.

Sailors aren't the only ones expected to help prevent sexual assault. TSC leadership went to bars near Great Lakes to talk to employees about the Navy's sexual assault problems. They asked businesses to give command duty officers a call anytime a "developing alcohol-related issue with sailors is evident," the memo said.

TSC teamed up with the Naval Criminal Investigative Service and visited Great Lakes-area hotels that regularly hosted sailor parties. As they did with the bars, officials left hotels with contact information.

Additionally, they have broken up a few parties and pulled liberty privileges from some sailors. "One hotel visit resulted in the intervention of a large hotel party full of underage drinkers and the of-age providers, after which open mast was conducted to drive the point home," the memo said.

To supplement the training effort, TCS organized 5K runs, posters for barracks, ribbons and tree plantings to bring attention to sexual assault prevention. Annual training sessions push responsible alcohol use and the connection between alcohol and sexual assault.

The program seems promising, figures show. After it was implemented at Great Lakes in 2011, there was a 62 percent "reduction in reports of rape and sodomy" over 18 months, the memo said. Speaking at the Surface Navy Association's annual symposium in January, Navy Secretary Ray Mabus didn't mention Great Lakes by name, but said data show intervention programs are particularly effective and should be used elsewhere.

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