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Naval Academy Hosts All-Day Sexual Assault Awareness, Prevention Training

ANNAPOLIS, Md., Sept. 26, 2016 — On Sept. 19, the U.S. Naval Academy here hosted an all-day training event to strengthen how military and civilian communities work together to support service members who report sexual assault.

The U.S. Department of Justice and the Department of Defense designed the training program as part of a joint effort to expand support services provided by military sexual assault responders, victim advocates and health care professionals. Military trainers pepper the program with role-play exercises, scenario-based questions, and some lively trainer-audience interaction.

Liz Blanc, a member of the Defense Department’s SAPRO, or Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office, opened the day’s training by recounting just how the Defense Department began partnering with the Department of Justice’s Office for Victims of Crime to develop, sustain and deliver what she called “innovative and exciting training.”

“We actually started collaborating with the Office for Victims of Crime back in 2007,” she said, though “2012 was when we actually formalized the relationship.”

As the Department intensified its efforts to prevent and respond to sexual assault, and as Congress paid increasing attention to the issue, one focus fell on the communities and community resources close to military installations.

“We know that a lot of our military folks, in the aftermath of a sexual assault, are accessing care and support [in their communities,]” Blanc said. She added that an effort to bridge the community-military resource gaps involves asking, “What can we do to give you the tools and information that you all need to support the military folks?”

Focusing on Service Members

Several of the training modules emphasized the importance of collaboration between community victim advocates and SAPRO to increase the focus on service member support.

“Part of our mission is to offer uncompromising support to victims,” Blanc said.

Army Staff Sgt. Quinzy Johnson is assigned to the 55th Signal Company, Combat Camera, where he serves as a victim advocate, among other roles. “This is an additional duty that, respectfully, should have undivided attention,” he said. He added that he hopes the Army decides to make victim advocacy its own military occupational specialty.

Johnson said the need for military and community sexual assault responders to work together is “huge.” Military members, he said, can learn a lot from their civilian counterparts who “[have] this as their day-to-day, nine-to-five, totally focused job.”

Building Collaborative Partnerships

Kristen Howe is director of education and training for the North Carolina Coalition Against Sexual Abuse.

Howe delivered two training modules. Her priority in her work, she said, is to “keep the focus on the service member,” and answer the questions, ‘What do they need, and who, be it the military side of the house, the civilian side of the house [or] working together, who can then meet their need?’”

Angela Lakey is a sexual assault response coordinator who covers much of the national capital region.

Lakey led a session called Military 101 that aimed to demystify military culture. Through role play and discussion, the training informed audience members about the military command structure, the Uniform Code of Military Justice, and some military customs and courtesies.

“We get referrals pretty regularly from civilian organizations,” Lakey said, “The purpose of this training is to be proactive in understanding how and where to access resources and information before individuals come to you for help.”

To request training, or for more information, contact Navy Cdr. Rohini Suraj of DoD’s Sexual Assault Prevention and Response office at .

(Follow Karen Parrish on Twitter: @ParrishDoDNews)

Distribution channels: Military