SAN DIEGO (NNS) -- The month of April brings with it many important events: Good Friday, Easter and Administrative Professionals Day to name a few. For Sailors and Marines aboard the Wasp-class amphibious assault ship USS Essex (LHD 2), the month of April is also the time to support awareness of sexual assault.
Every year, the Department of Defense (DoD) continues the campaign in raising awareness of sexual assault and other violent behavior during April's Sexual Assault and Awareness Prevention Month (SAAPM). This year's theme is "Eliminate Sexual Assault. Know Your Part. Do Your Part."
The Sexual Assault Prevention and Response (SAPR) Victim Advocate (VA) team aboard Essex has jumped in feet first to launch a shipboard campaign aimed at not just raising sexual assault awareness but also raising the knowledge level of statistics and reporting procedures.
Ashley Duncan, a San Diego-based Sexual Assault Response coordinator (SARC), spent a week underway aboard Essex providing training to junior and senior Sailors. The training, designed to be administered to a ship prior to deployment, included definitions and types of sexual assault, in-depth coverage of restricted and unrestricted reporting options and realistic scenarios to encourage discussions.
Duncan manages cases from 22 San Diego-based sea and shore commands, including Essex. She supervises the training of VAs and provides in-depth knowledge on new and current procedures to command triads. Even though the bulk of her cognizance is mainly shore duty, all of the commands under her charge add up to more than 5,000 Sailors and civilians.
"The VAs are really the backbone of the SAPR program, and I'm overwhelmed by the quality of the advocates who give up their time to support others," said Duncan.
After delivering 21 hours of training to more than 1,000 Sailors in a span of five days, she hopes her information clarifies the restricted and unrestricted reporting options and provides a basis for Essex to deploy safely and enjoy liberty overseas with no incidents.
"We aim to prepare Sailors for the various environments and cultures they may encounter and provide the information on how to be safe when deployed," said Duncan.
To kick-off the start of SAAPM, the Essex SAPR Point of Contact (POC), Chief Aviation Boatswain's Mate (Fuels) Justin Melton, and the VA team organized a formation on the flight deck to form a teal ribbon and spell out 'ESX ARG', which stands for Essex Amphibious Ready Group. More than 630 Sailors, Marines and civilians joined together to show Essex's support to help eliminate sexual assault.
"I'm truly amazed at the dedication and loyalty the Essex VAs display toward helping to bring awareness to sexual assault," Melton said.
A series of announcements were also made over the command announcing system, or 1MC, to inform the crew of various statistics and facts about sexual assaults and violent behavior. The announcements were made by VAs to help disassociate any negative perceptions toward reporting unacceptable behavior related to sexual assault and also focused on intervention with the theme of "Intervention Leads to Prevention."
Essex was also recently awarded "Most Proactive SAPR Command" by Naval Base San Diego.
Essex is scheduled to deploy in spring 2015 with the Essex Amphibious Ready Group (ESX ARG), which includes USS Anchorage (LPD 23), USS Rushmore (LSD 47) and the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit (15th MEU).