Marines, sailors encouraged to make a difference with new sexual assault survey

16 Oct 2013 | Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Peggy Trujillo

The Secretary of the Navy has announced a new Department of the Navy sexual assault survey for 2013, which started Oct. 15, and can be taken online via any device that can access the internet.

The Department of the Navy Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office (DoN SAPRO), which answers directly to Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus, created the survey to assess the Department's progress, and learn what more Sailors and Marines think should be done to fight sexual assault.

"We can't help them if we don't know what the issues are, and we don't know if our training is working," said Jill Loftus, director of DoN SAPRO. "If they think our training is horrible, then we'd like to know that, so that we can switch gears. We'd also like to know if they think that it is worthwhile and if they're learning stuff because then we can continue in that vein."

From previous surveys, DoN SAPRO has learned that the majority of sexual assaults in the Navy and Marine Corps happen to 18 - 24 year-olds in social settings involving alcohol, and that the assaults usually occur at A-schools right after boot camp, or at the first duty station.

"We've used that information to set up pilot programs," said Loftus. "Our Great Lakes experiment that we've been very successful with came from information we learned from our surveys."

The experiment targeted Training Support Center Great Lakes, mainly the Sailors who have recently graduated boot camp. The program brought together the Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS), local hotels, commanding officers, and others to put an end to the risky situations Sailors may encounter. 

The program also incorporated bystander intervention training, "No Zebras, No Excuses" training, Sex Signals training, a large group presentation on sexual assault and two small-group presentations with discussion groups.

Referring to Great Lakes, Loftus said, "Using anonymous surveys, we have seen a 60 percent reduction in sexual assaults over the past 34 months."

This year's survey incorporates questions from previous surveys, Department of Defense surveys and academic surveys. Pulling from the surveys and lessons learned, DoN SAPRO made the survey more concise to pinpoint the information they're trying to find, while taking less time from Sailors and Marines. 

"The 10-minute survey that's online focuses directly on the issues surrounding sexual assault, and addresses issues such as perceptions, attitudes of Sailors and Marines about the issue of sexual assault," said Cmdr. David McKay, a research psychologist at DoN SAPRO. "We're also interested in understanding reporting behaviors and attitudes about reporting.

"Sexual assault is one of the top priorities of the Secretary, and should be a top priority for all Sailors and Marines, to try to figure out how to combat sexual assault. The survey is important because it does a couple things. One, it helps us gauge progress on the different interventions we're implementing. Secondly, it provides an opportunity for Sailors and Marines to speak directly to the Secretary about their experiences about sexual assault."

The 21st Century Sailor and Marine Office (N-17) lists combating sexual assault as one of its main priorities. Rear Adm. Sean S. Buck, the director of N-17, spends time with Sailors to get feedback. 

"When I visit with Sailors, I am constantly asked - 'what else can I do to make a difference?' Besides looking out for your shipmates and actively intervening when necessary, surveys like this are your chance to do something, to make your voice heard," Buck said.

Although the survey is a chance for Sailors and Marines to be heard, it is completely anonymous. No one will get a reminder to complete the survey because no one is tracking the individuals who take the survey.

"We won't know if you haven't filled out the survey," said Loftus. "There's no fingerprint. There's no electronic tag to our survey. It can be taken from a smart phone; it can be taken from a tablet; it can be taken at the Apple store; it can be taken at your desktop or at home. We have no idea who you are and so you won't get that email reminding you to take it."

Loftus said that some of the initiatives that Mabus has instituted, based on previous survey results, included doubling the number of sexual assault investigators at NCIS, increasing the number of sexual assault response coordinators, 66 full-time victim advocates that are civilians trained as counselors, who will help victim support. The JAG is also instituting a victim's legal counsel who will help victims through the process and the Navy is deploying civilian resiliency counselors, who are also certified SARCs, on every big deck. 

"I think that the Navy and the Marine Corps are really spending the resources and putting the attention on prevention, victim care and support," said Loftus. "We think that if Sailors and Marines are honest and forthright in taking this survey, and we get enough of them, that we'll be able to show the nation and other service people that we're really taking this seriously, that we care, and that we don't want victims. We want to prevent sexual assault. This is a way for every member of the service to help us do that."

The survey is available at 

The password for all military participants is 2013Survey and the survey will be available through Jan. 6, 2014.

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