Sexual Assault: Prevalence Down, Reporting Up

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Wash. (Nov. 7, 2013) A photo illustration produced by the U.S. Navy supporting the Sexual Assault Prevention and Response (SAPR) program. Fleet-wide SAPR program training teaches Sailors effective ways to report and prevent sexual assault incidents. To become a victim advocate, Sailors participate in a SAPR victim advocate training course and are certified by the Navy SAPR program. (U.S. Navy photo Illustration by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Jeffry Willadsen/Released)
Wash. (Nov. 7, 2013) A photo illustration produced by the U.S. Navy supporting the Sexual Assault Prevention and Response (SAPR) program. Fleet-wide SAPR program training teaches Sailors effective ways to report and prevent sexual assault incidents. To become a victim advocate, Sailors participate in a SAPR victim advocate training course and are certified by the Navy SAPR program. (U.S. Navy photo Illustration by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Jeffry Willadsen/Released)

Sexual Assault: Prevalence Down, Reporting Up

by: Terrina Weatherspoon, Defense Media Activity | .
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published: December 06, 2014

FORT MEADE, Md. (NNS) -- Although he isn't declaring victory, Rear Adm. Rick Snyder, director, 21st Century Sailor Office is declaring progress in most areas of the Navy's sexual assault prevention and response (SAPR) efforts.

The Department of Defense SAPR Progress Report to the President, released by Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel Dec. 4, shows the Navy making specific progress in two areas: reporting and prevalence.

"Reports have gone up, which is positive," said Snyder. "It means victims are not afraid to come forward."

Additionally, prevalence is coming down. Closing the gap between reports and prevalence is important to Snyder and to the Navy because it shows the progress of the efforts t implemented throughout the Navy in the last few years.

The Navy's preliminary numbers look like this: There were 1,274 reporters this year. That is a 10 percent increase from 2013 and a 70 percent increase from 2012. In 2012 about 1 in 15 victims came forward to report a sexual assault. Now about 1 in 5 victims are reporting, and for women, it's 1 in 3.

Prevalence has decreased in the last two years. In 2014 there were 5,600 victims, down from 10,600 in 2012. In other words, this year 5.1 percent of women in the Navy were victims of sexual assault and 1.1 percent of men, down from 7.2 percent of women and 2.7 percent of men in 2012.

That's good news for the Navy. However, there is one area Snyder identified as needing work-- professional and social retaliation. Victims who took the Survivor Experience Survey cited that they experiences some sort of retaliation after they reported a sexual assault.

"We haven't acceptable progress in this area," said Snyder. "Anything that might discourage reporting or recovery for a victim is counterproductive to everything we are trying to do to combat sexual assault."

Although victims have options for reporting retaliation, it makes reporting the initial crime a bit scary, and Snyder said he is worried about it. However, he said that is why it is so important that from the top down, Sailors build a climate of dignity and respect.

"We've really spent a lot of effort at our recruiting center, at Great Lakes, to bring. Sailors into a culture that prevents sexual assault right from the beginning," said Snyder. "We've really focused education and awareness efforts on our recruits...to include bystander intervention.

On the other end of the spectrum, Snyder also emphasizes the time spent by Navy leadership addressing these issues directly.

"From the CNO on down there is a regular drum beat amongst senior leaders...with an eye on the entire sexual assault response system," said Snyder. "That senior leadership effort has been fantastic for the Navy."

Snyder also said that feedback from command climate surveys across the Navy have been positive.

"We hear from our Sailors that a low number of them perceive incidents that could lead to sexual assault," said Snyder. "But a high number, about 85 percent, said they did or would take action if they saw something like that happening, so our Sailors are getting after the problem."

Snyder also cited CSADD (Coalition of Sailors Against Destructive Decisions) as creating a culture in which Shipmates are helping Shipmates maintain a course of success through good decision making, not just to prevent sexual assault, but all destructive behaviors.

The goal of all of these efforts is straightforward - To maintain a Navy in which every Sailor understands what sexual assault is, how to play a role in prevention, and how to report it; a Navy in which victims know they will be supported and everyone knows that perpetrators will be held appropriately accountable.

Snyder said that every Sailor plays a part in making this goal a reality.

"Looking out for your Shipmates and having the courage to step in early and often when you see the potential for destructive behaviors regardless of what they are," said Snyder. "Because we know that the seemingly less destructive behaviors, if allowed, can lead to more destructive behaviors and perhaps ultimately to sexual assault. We often talk about a continuum of harm and trying to get after it early and so for instance, the sailor that may be acting inappropriately but not sexually assaulting someone - if corrected early, and if made to understand that is not acceptable by his or her peers, is the way to get after this issue. So it's really going to be about Sailors helping Sailors to understand the magnitude of this problem, and then having that courage to step in and do something when they see the situation develop."

More details results and data of the Rand Survey will be out in the Spring.

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