Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month at the U.S. Naval Academy
POSTED ON: Monday, June 5, 2023 12:39 PM by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Sarah M. Thielen
ANNAPOLIS, Md. – April was national Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention (SAAPM) month and the U.S. Naval Academy (USNA) midshipmen, faculty and staff, along with Naval Support Activity (NSA) Annapolis spent the month showing their support.
The kickoff event was held in T-Court, March 31, where Vice Adm. Sean Buck, the 63rd Superintendent of the Naval Academy and Col. James McDonough, the 89th Commandant of midshipmen, signed a proclamation dedicating the upcoming month to awareness and prevention efforts.
“Beginning in 2001, the National Sexual Violence Resource Center campaigned for a month to be dedicated to Sexual Assault Awareness” said McDonough. “In 2009, President Barack Obama made the first official proclamation, declaring April as National Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month. Sexual assault is one of the most difficult issues we face within the Brigade, and within the Armed Forces as a whole. It erodes the trust and readiness that we work so hard to build. I am committed to tackling this problem head on.”
To McDonough, the proclamation serves as a call upon all personnel to increase efforts to assist survivors and prevent sexual assault.
“The month of April brings awareness to a large issue that not only our military faces, but our country as a whole,” said Buck. “Our military is the most trusted institution in America and we must work to further reduce, with the goal to eliminate, sexual assault from the Armed Forces. We will set the standard. The events taking place this month bring us together as a Naval Academy team, bring awareness to the prevalence of this issue, and remind us of our obligation to protect our people and to support survivors.”
Upon the conclusion of the proclamation ceremony, 2,899 teal flags were placed lining the Stribling Walk way, each flag representing one Sexual Assault Prevention and Response (SAPR) report filed by a Sailor or Marine in 2021. The brigade, USNA’s SAPR office and SAAPM committee planned and executed additional events throughout the month. Some of these events were designed to encourage conversations about issues of sexual harassment and assault, such as teal ribbon cookies in King Hall, book club discussions, and an alumni hosted panel.
In observance of Denim Day, the superintendent authorized denim as the uniform of the day for the institution on April 26 as a visible means of protest against misconceptions and victim-blaming, and announced a clothing drive in conjunction with Mercy Medical Center.
“All of the outward displays really helped to facilitate conversation between midshipmen, as well as engaging faculty, staff, and even visitors to USNA,” said Midshipman 1st Class (senior) Thomas Pearson, the Sexual Harassment and Assault Prevention Education (SHAPE) commander. “There were more than a few occasions where I was talking to visitors on Stribling Walk and they wanted to know what the teal flags were about, and we were able to have a good discussion about SAAPM and the mission of the SAPR office at USNA.”
Other events encouraged display of unity, such as designing SAAPM t-shirts, distributing teal ribbons, and Teal Deal Day.
“I think the displays helped midshipmen to understand the immense prevalence of sexual harassment and assault in USNA and the fleet,” said Pearson. “We really focused this year on the meaning behind the different displays. For example, we had an event in the Midshipmen Store called Teal Deal Day where if you wear a teal ribbon, you get 20% off your purchase. Based on past comments, [we knew we could make this event more effective]. This year we doubled down on the messaging, adding more reading material and another table up by 1845 Cafe where we would answer questions and discuss SAAPM with more midshipmen than before.”
The culminating event for USNA’s Waterfront Readiness personnel was a command-wide cookout complete with grilling, games, prizes, and reminders that support is always available. Machinist's Mate 2nd Class Madina Prass, a uniformed Victim Advocate and 24/7 SAPR response helpline volunteer for midshipmen, explained that while these SAPR related events cover a sensitive topic, she hopes they bring a sense of comfort in knowing others care.
“Providing awareness is not just about posters and flyers, but about speaking on the subject and addressing it,” said Prass. “Showing that even when it’s uncomfortable, we support the person. Events like this take the stress away for a second, providing people with the little ease they may have needed. The purpose is to remind people that whatever they may be going through, they do not have to do it alone, there is a work family here who wants to help.”
These events had over 1,800 attendees when April concluded. The Department of Defense’s goal of SAAPM is to create a culture to eliminate sexual assault, requiring a personal commitment from all service members.
Category: General Interest