JOINT BASE CHARLESTON, SOUTH CAROLINA –
April is Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month (SAAPM). This year’s theme is, “Protecting Our People Protects Our Mission,” offering numerous opportunities to deliver messages relating to individuals and units.
Sexual assault is defined as intentional sexual contact characterized by use of force, threats, intimidation, abuse of authority or when the victim doesn't or can't consent. It can occur without regard to gender, spousal relationship or age of the victim.
The awareness month is intended to create momentum for year-round efforts to ensure all servicemembers are treated with dignity and respect and to end the crime of sexual assault.
“Throughout the year we work to promote and raise awareness of the SAPR program, so victims know there is a team of people here to support them and provide them information on making a reports,” said Ruby Godley, the Sexual Assault Response Coordinator for Naval Weapons Station Charleston. “SAAPM also informs sailors who want to be part of the SAPR team, how to go about helping or becoming a victim advocate.”
SAAPM provides an avenue for sailors who may have been victimized by sexual assault to learn about who they can contact confidentially and what their reporting options are.
“Here in Charleston, we have two SAPR programs. The Navy SAPR program is on the weapons station and the Air Force SAPR program is on the air base,” Godley said. “Both programs have their own SARCs. Each program has its own Civilian Victim Advocate and a team of uniform or unit victim advocates.”
Since its launch in 2001, SAAPM has become the highlight of the Navy's SAPR program, by preventing sexual assault involving service members through training and education programs, treatment and support to victims of sexual assault.
“One of the most important points to get across during awareness month is knowing how to handle different situations. If you are assisting a victim, you need to be able to explain their options and give them the information they need,” said Information Systems Technician 1st Class Drew Tiernan, the Naval Support Activity Charleston Sexual Assault Prevention and Response point of contact. “You need to recognize situations where intervention is necessary to stop an unsafe situation.
According to Safe Helpline, the DoD's crisis support service, one of the most effective methods of preventing sexual assault is bystander intervention.
The active bystander intervention method encourages people to identify situations that might lead to a sexual assault and then safely intervene to prevent an assault from occurring. The three components to active bystander intervention are: recognizing when to intervene, considering whether the situation needs attention, and deciding if there is a responsibility to act.
Victims of sexual assault have two reporting options, which are unrestricted and restricted. Unrestricted cases are reported through the chain of command, while restricted reports are made confidential allowing victims to get help without reporting it through their chain of command or law enforcement.
Anyone in immediate danger should call 911. To report a sexual assault, please call the toll-free DOD Safe Helpline at (877) 995-5247. For more information regarding the SAPR program or to find out how you can help fight sexual assault, contact the Joint Base Charleston Weapons Station 24-hour SAPR hotline at 843-478-8615 or visit their Facebook page at www.facebook.com/SAPRJBCWS.