Story by PO2 Scott Wood on 05/08/2018OAK HARBOR, Wash. Throughout the month of April, Naval Air Station Whidbey Island (NASWI) participated in what is recognized by both civilian and military communities as Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month (SAAPM).
SAAPM focuses on creating the appropriate culture to eliminate sexual assault and requiring a personal commitment from all service members at every level.
The 2018 SAAPM theme was "Protecting Our People Protects Our Mission". Raise Your Voice for Prevention and NASWI helped raise awareness of this theme and sexual assault prevention by hosting numerous events that encouraged participation from all the commands on base.
"The purpose of SAAPM is exactly what it says, it's awareness. It brings attention to one; the issue, and two; the resources that are available. It's really important for us to talk about our available resources, services we provide, and very importantly, what Sailors, the military and civilians can proactively do or who they can talk to if somebody they know has witnessed or experienced a sexual assault," explained NASWI Lead Sexual Assault Response Coordinator (SARC) Kathleen Schofield.
Among the events hosted, Center for Naval Aviation Technical Training Unit held a small ceremony with cupcakes made in the shape of a teal ribbon and made available paper teal ribbon cut outs for anyone to write their own personal messages raising awareness to sexual assault. 'Silent No More' silhouettes were displayed at the Fleet and Family Support Center on base, representing survivor voices. A Sexual Assault Prevention and Response (SAPR) team appreciation reception was held at the officer's club to recognize the services, compassion and dedication of the volunteer Unit Victim Advocates (UVA) and the Command Point of Contacts (POC), as well as Staff SAPR Victim Advocates (VA).
SAAPM freeze mobs were held at both Navy Exchanges, where participants froze in different poses holding messages representing survivors' voices. While the freeze mobs were somber events, the first annual SAPR 5K color run with over 380 runners and walkers, to include toddlers, seniors, civilians, service members and dogs was loud, colorful and energetic, with participants fully demonstrating their enthusiasm for raising awareness.
As SAAPM began winding down, seven performances of Sailors Challenging Realities and Educating Against Myths (SCREAM) Theater brought the month to a climax with a large audience of over 3800 attendees, portraying the sobering and impactful reality of sexual assault. SCREAM Theater was a unique series of live skits written and performed by Sailors for Sailors that focuses on sexual assault awareness, addressing myths, providing education and reviewing Sailor intervention techniques and SAPR resources. NASWI was the only installation throughout the Navy approved to present SCREAM.
"After the performance last year, so many people came up to me and said that they learned so much more from the theatrical production than the previous Power Point trainings," commented Brenda Reinbold, NASWI other SARC and also the coordinator of the presentation.
The final SAAPM event was a sunset candlelight vigil at NASWI chapel, led by Chaplain Lt. David Arnott.
Every event provided education and awareness messages and information on the resources available to include command UVAs, POCs, SAPR Staff VAs, NASWI SARCs and the DoD Safe Helpline, all available 24/7.
"At our SAPR team appreciation event, Capt. Moore talked about NASWI having a long standing culture of being a safe haven because victims have expressed their confidence in the NASWI SAPR Support. I am privileged to be a part of a team that supports clients in the way that we do," stated Reinbold.
Schofield re-emphasized the purpose of SAAPM, summarizing the true intent of the month. "It's a pause to really take a serious moment outside of our busy day, every one of us, to think about sexual assault and how it affects the victims, the units, the command, and our community as a whole and how we can best support our survivors."