May 2, 2012
By Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Joan E. Jennings
SAN DIEGO (NNS) -- Chief of Naval Personnel (CNP) held an all hands call at Naval Base Coronado, April 26, to speak about Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM) and the 21st Century Sailor and Marine initiatives and goals.
SAAM is observed in the United States throughout the month of April and is dedicated to raising public awareness and educating communities and individuals about sexual violence and how to prevent it. Throughout the month, commands fleet-wide are hosting mandatory education sessions to raise sexual assault awareness among Sailors.
"There are not many times in our Navy where we stop all we are doing," Van Buskirk said. "Taking this operational pause to have education throughout our Navy on sexual assault highlights how critically important this is, but it won't end here."
The critical things that are we are working on with sexual assault is understanding intervention, understanding where to intervene, and to prevent sexual assault from ever occurring," continued Van Buskirk.
According to the Department of the Navy Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office (SAPRO), the theme for April is "Hurts one ... Affects all. Preventing sexual assault is everyone's duty."
The Navy has a "zero tolerance" sexual assault policy. It requires Sailors' support from the deck plates to the upper chain of command to successfully eliminate sexual assaults, according to Chief of Information's (CHINFO) monthly message.
Hospital Corpsman 1st Class Brandon Jackson, a Sailor who attended the all hands call, echoed CNP's call to action to end sexual assaults within the Navy.
"Although the number of sexual assault incidents within the Navy are lower than the civilian community, any sexual assault is one too many," said Jackson. "It is our duty as Sailors to educate and prevent this type of damaging behavior."
According to SAPRO, the goal of Navy SAAM is to reduce sexual assaults through direct, sustained engagement of all hands at all levels. SAAM presents the Navy an opportunity to dedicate time to teach Sailors about sexual assault.
Sexual assault is a crime that devastates victims, undermines teamwork, threatens unit cohesiveness, and ultimately reduces fleet readiness, according to CHINFO. Awareness through education, training and leadership is vital to the success of the Navy's prevention and response program.
"I think we do a good job of highlighting the problem," Van Buskirk said. "Still, highlighting is not good enough; it's about how the Navy is working to eliminate the crime and provide support to victims of sexual assault."
We have to eradicate sexual assault in our Navy," continued Van Buskirk. "It affects the moral fiber of our Navy and it affects readiness."
CNP also discussed recruiting, retention, and the new 21st Century Sailor and Marine initiative.
"We have the highest quality of recruits coming into our force," Van Buskirk said. "Retention is great, and people are continually choosing to stay Navy."
The 21st Century Sailor and Marine initiative is a set of objectives and policies, new and existing, across a spectrum of wellness that maximizes each Sailor's and Marine's personal readiness to hone the most combat effective force in the history of the Department of the Navy.
"21st Century Sailor and Marine really brings together some of the critical initiatives that are focused on the resiliency for our force, support of our families, and support of our Sailors and Marines," Van Buskirk said. "The missions we take on worldwide, every day, require every Sailor to be at one's best - and this initiative will help each and every Sailor meet that goal."