USS Blue Ridge Raises Sexual Assault Awareness 
By Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Kelby Sanders, USS Blue Ridge Public Affairs 
USS BLUE RIDGE, At Sea - The USS Blue Ridge (LCC 19) Sexual Assault Prevention and Response program is training Sailors to deal with sexual assault throughout the month of April in support of Sexual Assault Awareness Month.

Today's Navy is leading the charge against sexual assault by making Sailors aware of the statistics surrounding sexual assault, informing them of what can be done to report the crimes, and encouraging them to act vigilantly to prevent sexual crimes from occurring.

April is nationally recognized as Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM). The Navy is highlighting sexual assault training this month in an effort to educate Sailors on the many ways sexual assault damages an individual and their command, how victims can get support, and how Sailors can play a part in prevention.

The SAPR program is designed to offer training and other resources to Sailors to help increase awareness of the issue and to help prevent such incidents from occurring, said Blue Ridge's command Sexual Assault Prevention and Response (SAPR) officer Chief Damage Controlman (SW) Ernest W. Thomas.

"SAPR's main responsibilities are to train Sailors on how to respond and to provide support for the victims of sexual assault crimes," said Thomas.

The Blue Ridge SAPR team of command representatives is posting flyers, plan-of-the-day notes and other displays throughout the ship. SAPR advocates are giving training on sexual assault prevention and Ship's Information, Training and Entertainment (SITE) TV is also airing presentations throughout the day.

"Prevention is everyone's duty and to look the other way is to condone the problem," said Thomas. "We all have a responsibility to look out for each other, because if you say something you just might prevent a crime."

On average 207,754 people over the age of 12 are sexually assaulted every year according to the Department of Justice's (DoJ) National Crime Victimization Survey. If you do the math you'll see that means a sexual assault occurs every 2 ½ seconds.

Also, according to the DoJ, more than 70 percent of sexual assaults are committed by someone whom the victim knows, and more than half of sexual assaults go unreported.

In the military alone, 3,191 sexual assaults were reported in 2011 but the actual number may be nearly 19,000, said Defense Secretary Leon Panetta.

The information is out there for every Sailor to see, and the resources are available to communicate with the proper personnel.

Sexual Assault Prevention and Response is an important element of the readiness area of the 21st Century Sailor and Marine initiative which consolidates a set of objectives and policies, new and existing, to maximize Sailor and Marine personal readiness, build resiliency and hone the most combat-effective force in the history of the Navy and Marine Corps. The Department of the Navy is working to aggressively to prevent sexual assaults, to support sexual assault victims, and to hold offenders accountable.

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