7th Fleet Uses Bystander Intervention to Combat Sexual Assault

By Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Toni Burton

YOKOSUKA, Japan (Feb. 13, 2014) – U.S. 7th Fleet Sexual Assault Prevention and Response (SAPR) Victim Advocates (VA) attended the quarterly Command Fleet Activities Yokosuka SAPR meeting, Feb. 13.

The meeting was to announce upcoming events and training for the VA’s to pass along to their respective commands such as Sexual Assault Awareness Month, Sailors Challenging Reality and Education against Myths, and keeping command training up to date.

Bystander intervention has been a primary focus of U.S. 7th Fleet staff.

Commander, 7th fleet Sexual Assault Prevention and Response (SAPR) Victim Advocates (VA) Intelligence Specialist 2nd Class Michael Thielen, left, Intelligence Specialist 2nd Class Kimberly Godwin and Chief Crytologic Technician Maintenance Michael Horton attend the quarterly Command Fleet Activities Yokosuka SAPR meeting, Feb. 13, 2014. The meeting was to announce upcoming events and training for the VA’s to pass along to their respective commands such as Sexual Assault Awareness Month, Sailors Challenging Reality and Education against Myths, and keeping command training up to date. U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Toni N. Burton

Commander, 7th fleet Sexual Assault Prevention and Response (SAPR) Victim Advocates (VA) Intelligence Specialist 2nd Class Michael Thielen, left, Intelligence Specialist 2nd Class Kimberly Godwin and Chief Crytologic Technician Maintenance Michael Horton attend the quarterly Command Fleet Activities Yokosuka SAPR meeting, Feb. 13, 2014. The meeting was to announce upcoming events and training for the VA’s to pass along to their respective commands such as Sexual Assault Awareness Month, Sailors Challenging Reality and Education against Myths, and keeping command training up to date.
U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Toni N. Burton

Although sexual assault training is mandatory for Sailors, recently, five U.S. 7th Fleet Sailors took advantage of an opportunity to attend a regional education courses. Sailors who attended these courses will become a command SAPR VA. The focus on bystander intervention is to instill in Sailors the will to act when they see something negative that could turn into sexual assault.

One example was a scenario staged during a Coalition of Sailors against Destructive Decisions all-hands event with more than 80 bystanders present, where trainers in civilian clothes got into an argument resulting in an assault in order to evaluate the crowd’s reaction. Not surprisingly, an off-duty Master Chief stepped in; however, the trainers also noted dozens of bystanders who did nothing. The trainers then “froze” the scenario to discuss what happened.

“When a third party observes something they know is wrong, sees the possibility of it going down hill and steps in and acts on the situation, that’s bystander intervention,” said Chief Mass Communication Specialist Bleu Moore, Seventh Fleet SAPR representative. “It’s that gut feeling we all have when a situation doesn’t feel right and doing something about it.”

Sexual assault is defined as any unconscious sexual act in which a person is coerced, threatened, forced to engage against their will or any sexual touching of a person who has not consented. With the number of sexual assaults in the Seventh Fleet and the Navy as a whole, this training will be passed on to other Sailors for awareness that sexual assaults do happen and they could happen to anyone.

“There are different ways to battle sexual assault. Whether it is through awareness, prevention, education, bystander intervention or out reach, we are really pushing to increase bystander intervention,” added Commander, Fleet Activities Yokosuka Sexual Assault Response Coordinator (SARC) Keisha Moore.

The National Defense Authorization Act required the Department of Defense to establish a training and certification program for SARC and SAPR VA since 2012.

Everyone that comes through the SAPR program to become a VA must attend the class after getting a command endorsement.

“The training piece of becoming a VA is really what sets the tone for being effective,” said Keisha Moore. “Learning the ins and outs in this training environment is where we assess all newly positioned VA’s. We want to ensure you understand the victim comes first; 100 percent for the victim.”

The initial training for the SAPR VA recently went from a 30-hour course to 40 hours and is a 5-day course. The course consists of different modules that cover facts, myths, confidentiality, help options and role playing.

Currently, U.S. 7th Fleet staff has nine VA’s for a command of more then 300 personnel.

Taking a stand against sexual assault is pertinent to the quality of life in 7th Fleet. At any given time, there are over 40,000 Navy and Marine Corps personnel assigned to 60-70 ships and 200-300 aircrafts in fleet that includes forces operating from bases in Japan and Guam and rotationally-deployed forces based in the United States.

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