“Protecting Our People Protects Our Mission,” a powerful concept recognized throughout the Marine Corps as the ongoing theme for Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month (SAPPM). For 16 years, the Marine Corps has recognized April as a time to raise awareness and educate Marines on the uncomfortable reality of sexual assault with the ultimate goal of prevention.
Regardless of rank, every Marine plays a role in ensuring the Marine Corps maintains a climate true to its core values.
“It is important to start a conversation, what sexual assault is, prevention and how to support survivors, bringing attention to realities that it exist across all populations,” said Priscilla Willett, sexual assault response coordinator (SARC), Headquarters and Service Battalion, Joint Base Myer–Henderson Hall, Virgina. “The specific month gives survivors a platform, designated time, to speak about what happened to them, if they choose to do so. Designating a specific month also opens a forum to challenge the stigmas that being a victim is shameful.”
Throughout the Marine Corps, SARCs, SAPR victim advocates (VAs), counselors, medical providers and Victims’ Legal Counsel work diligently to provide trustworthy resources and support for those affected by sexual assault. VAs are reputable Marines across the fleet who have received 40-hours of training to build and refine victim support skills. They can be called on 24-hours a day to provide the Marines at their command a reporting outlet and the information needed for their specific situation.
Sgt. Derrick Angoe, a SAPR VA, chose to become a VA because he understood the importance that victim advocates play in the Marine Corps community. “As a Marine, I see SAPR, as it relates to my core values, not only as my responsibility, but duty to eliminate sexual assault and remain committed to protect my fellow Marines, Sailors and civilians alike in the face of fear or intimidation. I am proud of what we are doing for the Marine Corps today as VAs and SARCs and what is to come for this program.”
SAAPM’s focus on education and prevention provides Marines the knowledge and tools to recognize the warning signs of sexual assault. Through training and potential scenarios, Marines learn how to handle situations when they feel the need to step in, known as bystander intervention. Bystander intervention training helps Marines build confidence for potentially uncomfortable situations and do their part in keeping their communities safe.
“Recognizing SAAPM is essential because without awareness of sexual assault, it will be impossible to prevent,” said Angoe.
The Marine Corps takes sexual assault very seriously and will continue progressing, educating and building the SAPR program. Marines throughout the fleet are encouraged to reach out to their local SARC or VAs if they wish to get involved with sexual assault prevention within their command.
Marines can visit https://safehelpline.org/ for information regarding sexual assault, live chat options, and the ability to locate local resources. The Safe Helpline can be reached 24/7 at 877-995-5247.