One of many things that have changed over the years in the Navy is the workplace and what is acceptable inside of it. The Navy is a different work environment because the level of camaraderie and trust in a division, and even on a ship, almost becomes akin to that of a family because of the amount of time spent together. This is why the Navy has developed many initiatives to keep trust alive on the seas, and one of them is the Sexual Assault Prevention and Response (SAPR) program.
The Navy recognizes April as Sexual Assault, Awareness Prevention Month (SAAPM). During this time, commands are encouraged to augment year-round efforts to rid working environments of the discomfort of wrongful sexual behaviors that would make any Sailor feel like they aren’t receiving the respect they deserve.
Since its establishment in 2001, SAAPM has become an important piece of the Navy’s SAPR program, which helps prevent sexual assault involving service members through training, education programs, treatment and support to victims of sexual assault.
This year the Navy and the aircraft carrier USS Nimitz (CVN 68) have developed their own plans to keep Sailors safe from all levels of unwelcomed sexual behavior including assault, sexism, hazing and harassment, whether it be online or word of mouth at home or work.
The SAAPM theme for this year is “Protecting Our People Protects Our Mission.”
Leadership at the highest levels of the Navy have shared their words of wisdom on the importance of this month with the goal of having those stories trickle down to each and every Sailor who may be affected by any wrongful behaviors.
“The very best teams perform best across the board. They have no place for toxic behavior that weakens the team. They are laser-focused on continually improving their performance,” said Adm. John Richardson, Chief of Naval Operations. “If you see these behaviors anywhere, step in. There are no bystanders on our team. Intervene and stop the behavior.”
Nimitz is doing its part to highlight this year’s SAAPM theme, through various mediums of deckplate advertisement.
“Every Thursday during lunch and dinner, this month, Nimitz SAPR advocates will be on the aft mess decks handing out flyers with information on the SAPR program to create a general awareness around the ship,” said Yeoman 1st Class Kelli Bradshaw, a native of Waxahachie, Texas and a Nimitz command SAPR advocate.
Another goal for the Nimitz SAPR program is to make sure that Sailors around the ship know exactly who the command’s advocates are.
“We recently took a photo of the command SAPR advocates that will be displayed around the ship so that people can put a face to a name and know who the trusted people of the SAPR team are,” said Bradshaw.
Advocates are taking extra pride in the comfort of their Sailors to make sure that the mission is completed as the ship goes through Composite Training Unit Exercise (COMPTUEX) and prepares for this year’s slated deployment.
“This involves everyone because when the line starts to be crossed by an individual it could happen more and more as they get comfortable with what they are doing,” said Bradshaw. “We are encouraging everyone to stop these behaviors right at the beginning that way it will end before it gets to the point of someone needing to seek help.”
Nimitz SAPR advocates are asking for ship’s leadership to assist in creating a safe work environment.
“Leadership around the Navy needs to step in and let Sailors know what professional behavior is so they can take that with them day to day, and that alone will cut down on a lot of these cases in the workplace,” said Bradshaw.
It’s important to make this happen so Sailors can learn the standards that they have to meet and help each other keep a level head so they can carry out their work with no burdens.
“Sailors should be able to come to a work environment free of sexual harassment and assault and get the mission done without having any fear of coming to work to do their job,” said Bradshaw.
Bradshaw said she has one goal for the SAPR team this year, and that is to make sure nobody ever feels trapped on the ship.
Within a family there is always drama and often times rough patches, but there should never be true pain or discomfort. Once the damage has been done, the functionality of the family can often be ruined for any period of time. That’s why it is more important than ever that Nimitz Sailor’s protect their fellow Sailors at all times. If they don’t do so, the functionality of the ship could be ruined, and that could lead to failure of the mission.
Anyone in immediate danger should call 911. To report a sexual assault please the call the toll-free DOD Safe Helpline at (877) 995-5247 or the Nimitz command SAPR hotline at (360) 990-6219. Aboard the ship, anyone can receive help from command SAPR representatives by calling 5158 or 5437 or sending an email to SAPR@cvn68.navy.mil.