Story by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Kathleen O’Keefe
Photo Illustration by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Will Tyndall

April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month, and Stennis Sailors will be reaching out to shipmates on the mess decks until Apr. 9.

Stennis’ Sexual Assault Prevention and Response (SAPR) representatives hope to create a culture of awareness by providing various types of information and services to Stennis Sailors.

“A lot of Sailors have an attitude that sexual assault will not happen to them because they don’t put themselves in a situation that would make them a victim,” said Chief Aviation Maintenance Administrationman (AW/SW) Richard Stepp, a SAPR victim advocate. “Our goal is to inform Sailors that it can happen at any time to any individual and that if it does SAPR representatives are there to help.”

The SAPR display, located on the aft mess decks adjacent to the scullery, offers a wide range of statistics of sexual assaults in the services.

“The statistics show that reports of sexual assaults are increasing,” said Ship’s Serviceman 1st Class (SW/AW) Larry Wells, another SAPR victim advocate. “This means that the work we are doing is actually making a difference because more people are coming forward. By bringing our information out on the mess decks we hope to spread awareness and let people know they’ve got somewhere to turn if they are sexually assaulted.”

Stepp says that alcohol is often involved in incidents of sexual assault and encourages Sailors to visit the display and learn more about what they can do to protect themselves.

“As far as prevention goes, we need every single person to be aware that sexual assault is a real problem in the military and on this ship,” said Stennis’ SAPR Coordinator Chief Fire Controlman (SW/ AW) Sarah Mount. “By making sure Sailors are using alcohol responsibly, using the buddy system and holding each other accountable, we hope to lower the risk of sexual assaults happening.”

Sailors can also receive key chains with the SAPR victim’s advocate hotline and sign up to become a SAPR advocate themselves at the display.

By providing Sailors with information about sexual assaults and ways they can avoid becoming a victim, Stennis’ SAPR advocates are doing their part to protect their shipmates on and off the ship.