By Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class (SW/AW) Justin Thomas, USS Wasp Public Affairs
USS WASP, At Sea (NNS) — USS Wasp (LHD 1) took time, in recognition of Sexual Assault Awareness Month, to acknowledge this serious issue that people all over the nation face almost daily.
According to the Navy’s Sexual Assault Prevention and Response website, approximately 35 new sexual assault cases are initiated each month by the Naval Criminal Investigative Service.
During fiscal year 2009, aggravated sexual assault comprised 43 percent of reports, wrongful sexual contact comprised 20 percent, and rape reports 15 percent. Statistics also show that 62 percent of all Navy reported sexual assaults were service member on service member, making it what is widely believed to be one of the most under-reported crimes in the Navy and nation.
In an April 16 podcast to the fleet, Rear Adm. Dan Holloway, director of the Navy’s personnel, plans and policy division said, “the Navy stands behind the nation in its efforts to raise awareness and promote the prevention of sexual assault across the country by focusing on internal initiatives, programs, and policies during Sexual Assault Awareness Month and the theme, ‘Hurts one, affects all.’ Preventing sexual assault is everyone’s duty.”
Holloway encouraged individuals to embrace their role in stepping forward to stop sexual assault and underscored the services efforts to eradicate sexual assault among its ranks.
According to Ensign Jodi Biermann, Wasp’s sexual assault prevention and response coordinator (SAPR), the significance of the month cannot be understated because it affords Sailors an opportunity to learn about a topic that is often considered taboo.
“This month is a time to reflect on how SAPR offers preventative education, victim intervention services, and comprehensive victim advocacy,” said Biermann. “Also, it promotes sensitive, coordinated and effective management of sexual assault cases with command Sexual Assault Victim Intervention representatives and medical personnel.”
In 2005, the Pentagon created the Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office to coordinate military-wide education and response efforts by a network of sexual assault response coordinators and victim advocates. This office allowed service members to make confidential “restricted” reports of sexual assaults � to seek care without triggering an investigation � in order to get more victims to come forward.
Sexual assaults are considered by many to be purely a physical attack; however, sexual assaults can affect a person’s psyche, and leave a person’s family traumatized with feelings of guilt because they weren’t able to “protect” the victim.
“[A sexual assault victim’s] family and friends can suffer just as well as they do,” said Biermann. “Guilt is a large ordeal that the family will go through, and it can make the situation for all parties involved even more difficult.”
The Department of Defense’s has a zero tolerance policy regarding sexual assaults and offenses are punishable under the Uniform Code of Military Justice.
“Sexual assault is not acceptable in any situation, whether it is an unwanted touch of any kind, or even the worst case of rape,” said Logistics Specialist 1st Class (SW/AW) Annie Davis. “I’m glad that there are various programs such as the SAVI, which assists and empowers victims to get the help they need to move on from such a tragedy.”
For more news from USS Wasp (LHD 1), visit www.navy.mil/local/lhd1/.