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NEWS | April 13, 2021

Norfolk Naval Shipyard Hosts Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month Kickoff

By Allison Conti, Public Affairs Specialist Norfolk Naval Shipyard

Norfolk Naval Shipyard (NNSY) held its Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month (SAAPM) kickoff Apr. 9. This annual observance provides opportunities for service members and civilian employees to refresh their knowledge on resources available in preventing and reporting sexual assault, support victims of sexual assault and commit to eliminating harmful behaviors in the workforce.  


This year’s SAAPM theme is “Protecting Our People, Protects Our Mission.” Shipyard Commander, Capt. Dianna Wolfson, spoke about how this theme closely ties to NNSY’s “One Mission – One Team” mindset. “This mindset means that when even a single person on the team is hurt, the entire team is weakened,” she said. “When our entire team is weakened, our ability to achieve in our One Mission is compromised.”


The event was organized by NNSY Sexual Assault Response Coordinator (SARC) Shalise Bates-Pratt. She stressed the importance of having every NNSY team member committed to eliminating sexual assault to ensure a safe work environment for all employees. “We must ensure that we are active participants in creating climates that are appropriate, respectful, and uphold Navy Core Values,” she said. “I know that some look at sexual assault as an issue between the two people involved in the situation; however, it is important to understand that sexual assault is a preventable crime that is influenced by things such as work climate, peer groups and policies. These are all things that we, as NNSY employees, can contribute to working on.   We can start by asking ourselves how we might respond if a colleague, shipmate or friend tells us that they have been sexually assaulted.” 


Combatting sexual assault is a team effort and doing so requires knowing the resources available to both service members and civilian employees. For service members (including Reservists and those in the National Guard) and dependents over 18 years of age, assault committed by a non-spouse or intimate partner can be reported to the NNSY Sexual Assault Hotline at 757-402-2567 or the Department of Defense (DoD) Safe Helpline at 1-877-995-5247. Family advocacy or domestic violence cases should be directed to the Fleet and Family Services Center or local domestic violence crisis center.


Non-military dependent DoD civilians can contact the NNSY Sexual Assault Hotline, DoD Safe Helpline as well as go to the Civilian Employee Assistance Program (CEAP), NNSY Branch Health Clinic, or contact the Chaplain via the Hampton Roads Area Chaplain Hotline. Civilian employees who wish to have a case investigated, particularly if it happened on base or amongst DoD employees or contractors, should go straight to their supervisor and/or law enforcement.


Leading the charge to eliminate sexual assault are Sexual Assault Prevention and Response (SAPR) Victim Advocates (VAs) standing watch on the 24/7 Sexual Assault Hotline. According to Bates-Pratt, “they provide countless hours of volunteer services and have a tireless commitment to survivors of sexual violence.” To honor this commitment and service, four SAPR VAs were selected as SAPR representatives of the year. The SAPR VA of the Year Award is in partnership with the NNSY Chapter of the Federal Women’s Program (FWP), whose president Aiya Williams assisted Bates-Pratt in presenting the awards. The SAPR VAs celebrated included FCA2 Sandra Cline from NNSY, AO1 Rebecca Wright from USS George H.W. Bush (CVN 77), IT1 Cindy McCandies from Fleet Cyber Command, and Naval Network Warfare Command (NETWARCOM) IT2 Ryan Pumilia.


Wolfson signed the NNSY 2021 SAAPM Proclamation during the ceremony,  which will posted in NNSY’s Engineering and Management Building throughout the month as a reminder of the shipyard’s commitment to bolstering sexual assault awareness and working to eliminate it.


Showing the shared commitment between civilian and military, event participants included USS George H.W. Bush (CVN 77) Commanding Officer Captain Robert Aguilar and the Bush SAPR Team, along with USS Harry S Truman (CVN 75) Command Master Chief Keith Wilkerson, Jr. and the Truman SAPR Team.  Both carriers are currently undergoing overhaul at NNSY. 


During the event, all in attendance stood at attention to watch the flag be raised over America’s Shipyard. The imagery of the flag paired with the moment of silence at the conclusion of the kick off ceremony provided a moment of reflection for those in attendance as they were called to remember the shipyard’s mission, a mission that cannot be achieved if sexual assault is allowed to occur. As Wolfson said, “Our mission is too important to let any improper behaviors undermine our awesome capabilities as One Team.”