By Amaani LyleApril 15, 2014
WASHINGTON, April 14, 2014 -- As part of efforts to eliminate the crime of sexual assault in the military, Defense Department officials today announced improvements to sexual assault prevention and response training for all members of the armed forces and civilian employees.
Officials said the improvements center on development of consistent sexual assault prevention and response core competencies and learning objectives for:
-- Training for new accessions;
-- Annual and refresher training;
-- Pre- and post-deployment training;
-- Professional military education;
-- Training for commanders and senior enlisted leaders before assuming their new positions; and
-- Training for sexual assault response coordinators, victim advocates and chaplains.
Within the first 14 days of service, officials explained, new accessions to the armed forces receive training that provides a basic understanding of the sexual assault prevention and response program, specific information on reporting options, and the services and resources available both on base and in the local region. Additionally, service members receive annual refresher training in sexual assault prevention and response, as well as before and after deployments.
At the professional military education level, officials said, the training emphasizes participants' leadership role in supporting the Defense Department's sexual assault prevention and response efforts.
In their training, officials said, commanders and senior enlisted leaders learn about:
-- The complexities of the crime and their role in fostering a command environment of professional values, team commitment, and dignity and respect;
-- Proactive measures to reduce sexual assaults in their units;
-- The protections afforded victims and the accused; and
-- The elements of quality victim care.
Training for sexual assault response coordinators and victim advocates emphasize effective crisis management in addition to advocating for the victim and coordinating care, officials said.
For chaplains, training competencies focus on awareness of sexual assault as a crime, its impact on victims, and sexual assault prevention and response resources the Defense Department provides.
"The department is committed to eliminating sexual assault and ensuring an environment that provides dignity and respect for all members of the military community," said Army Col. Litonya Wilson, deputy director of prevention and victim assistance in the DOD Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office. "We took steps to improve the quality of SAPR training with a specific focus on developing core competencies and learning objectives, ensuring consistency, and implementing methods for assessing the effectiveness of these training programs."
The training improvements incorporate a coordinated effort designed to ensure that everyone in the military community -- including first responders, commanders, new service members, and those deployed around the world -- have consistent training standards and effective tools to prevent and respond to sexual assault, officials said. The services and the National Guard Bureau developed the core competencies and learning objectives jointly to incorporate best practices from the field and input from sexual assault survivors, they added.
"The entire military community must be engaged in creating an environment where sexual assault, sexual harassment, and sexist behaviors are not tolerated," Wilson said. "It is our aim to field innovative prevention strategies, new training approaches, and incorporate best practices for SAPR training to instill an environment that promotes respect and proper treatment of everyone within the department.
"Our focus is on creating a climate where sexual assault and sexual harassment are seen as unacceptable," she continued, "not just because they are illegal, but because they are wrong."