USS INDEPENDENCE, At Sea - Sailors aboard littoral combat ship USS Independence (LCS 2) are observing April as Sexual Assault Awareness Month, conducting sexual assault awareness training underway.
Independence Gold Crew Sailors are taking time throughout the month of April while in transit to their homeport of San Diego to ensure Sailors are knowledgeable and aware when it comes to sexual assault.
"On any ship in the Navy it's vitally important that everybody is aware of sexual assault and how to prevent it," said Cmdr. David Back, executive officer of Independence's Gold Crew. "Especially here, where we have a crew of 40 and mission package of 15, every single person on the ship is important and even a little bit of friction has a massive impact on morale and mission readiness. But something like sexual assault, or something of that magnitude, would have an unthinkable effect."
The Independence crew is conducting training to review the Navy's sexual assault policy and guidance, myths about sexual assault, and conversational training to allow a guided free flow of information to get Sailors more comfortable with talking about sexual assault.
"What does a real victim look like?" Electronics Technician 1st Class Paul Hoffrichter asked Independence Sailors during his training session. "We all have the idea of what a sexual assault victim looks like, but a victim is a victim. A man can be sexually assaulted by a woman, or another man, and vice versa. It doesn't matter who you are - sexual assault is indiscriminate and it can absolutely happen to anybody."
Hoffrichter said that every year there are enough reported cases for an incident of sexual assault to occur more than once a day. In fiscal year 2010 there were 441 unrestricted reports and 170 restricted cases reported. Two out of three of those were "blue on blue," or involving two Sailors.
The theme 'Hurts One, Affects All' indicates that even though the victim of a sexual assault is the one who gets hurt, everyone around them is affected in some way.
"Being aware of sexual assault is very important in today's Navy," said Chief Hospital Corpsman Melissa Morris, the ship's independent duty corpsman. "If we continue to raise awareness and educate our Sailors about the chance of it occurring, it can help them mitigate the risk of it happening and help them handle the situation it if it does happen."
Independence Sailors will continue formal training twice per week for the rest of the month of April.
Sailors assigned to Independence's Gold Crew and embarked Mine Countermeasures (MCM) Squadron, Detachment 1, are underway for the ship's maiden voyage to San Diego after successfully completing testing on the MCM mission package.
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.