EAST CHINA SEA - Navy commands are investing time and energy into innovative training and various awareness campaigns to deter sexual assault and harassment in the U.S. 7th Fleet Area of Responsibility.
Committed to understanding and preventing sexual assault, Amphibious Squadron (PHIBRON) 11 delved deep into the research to help educate their Sailors.
They discovered that most female rape victims experience their first assault before the age of 25, and nearly half of the women who are victims of rape in their lifetime are raped before the age of 18. That means female Sailors are in their most vulnerable age bracket aboard their first ship. Due to this, PHIBRON 11 is introducing essential life-skills, personal behavior and readiness, and empowerment training to all junior enlisted female Sailors.
"We did a comprehensive study of our population here at PHIBRON 11 and of our ships forward-deployed here in Sasebo," said Capt. Heidi Agle, deputy commodore of PHIBRON 11. "Eighty percent of our female population is below the age of 25, so we're reaching out to what we've identified as our most vulnerable Sailors. We're giving them tools to strengthen their own life skills to avoid putting themselves in situations where they might be in danger."
Life skills training is not a revolutionary training method used in the Navy. Training programs such as Sexual Assault Prevention and Response (SAPR) and Personal Responsibility and Values: Education and Training (PREVENT) are Navy-wide initiatives created to prevent sexual assault and harassment by reinforcing positive behavioral tendencies among Sailors. Sailors assigned to PHIBRON 11 are building on the SAPR and PREVENT instruction already in use with more focused life-skills training.
"I hope more commands come up with similar training," said Yeoman 2nd class Ashli DeFraties. "Training like this doesn't have to be limited to the Forward Deployed Naval Forces or even sea based commands. It needs to be an option at every command and in every location. I think life skills training for junior enlisted females run by senior enlisted females is a really great idea."
While similar training is available fleet-wide through Fleet & Family Services, the forward-deployed status of PHIBRON 11 Sailors often makes it difficult for them to take part.
"Since we're underway 70 percent of the year, we're trying to find ways to export that training to our ships," said Agle. "It can be challenging for Sailors to get that training while underway, so we're creating our own supplemental programs to help them."
Community involvement is also a main focus in PHIBRON 11's attempt to reduce sexual assault and harassment. A "Take Back The Night" event was held May 24 in Sasebo. Approximately 50 area residents marched through Nimitz Park in Sasebo in order to show solidarity with victims, and to strengthen community resolve against sexual assault and harassment.
Ending the scourge of sexual assault and harassment is one of the main issues the Navy currently faces. PHIBRON 11 Sailors of all levels, officer and enlisted, are working together to explore creative ways to stop the problem at its source.
"If we can stop just one sexual assault from occurring," said Agle. "then it's a win."
Get more information and resources to combat sexual assault at www.sapr.navy.mil. Sexual assault affects Navy readiness, and the Navy is committed to preventing sexual assault. Join the Navy's conversation about sexual assault on social media and help raise awareness by using #NavySAPR.