Navy looks to more interactive training for sailors to combat sexual assaults



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NORFOLK, Virginia — When it comes to sexual assault prevention, Navy leaders have gotten the message from their sailors: Enough with the boring PowerPoint presentations.

This fall the Navy is opting for more interactive hands-on training that's intended to keep sailors from wanting to nap during their training sessions.

"You've asked us for more interactive training led by your peers. We've heard you out in the fleet and we get it," Fleet Master Chief April Beldo said in a video to the fleet announcing the new approach. "Making you sit through an hour of computer-based training isn't how we stop destructive behaviors like sexual assault, hazing, domestic violence, alcohol abuse or suicide. You are the answer."

A heightened focus of the training will be on bystander intervention, which leaders believe is a major component to stemming the tide of sexual assaults that have flummoxed military officials for years. Navy leaders know that many assaults stem from alcohol use and want their sailors to step in and stop the chain of events when they see it going in a bad direction.

"Bystander intervention, obviously, is you looking out for your shipmate. In the Navy, you're more close knit in the military than you are in the civilian sector because we're stuck on a ship, we can't go very far. That's who you rely on. And usually outside of work that's who you hang out with," said Petty Officer 1st Class Valerie Arellano, a sexual assault victim advocate aboard the USS Abraham Lincoln.

The Navy says each sailor will be required to complete the new, more interactive training by September 2015.

The Navy has offered various programs for years that are more entertaining and interactive in nature to select groups of sailors, similar to programs offered on college campuses, and received positive responses. A guest speaker was brought to Naval Station Norfolk earlier this week to provide an hour of entertaining, rapid-fire question-and-answer sessions and role playing.

"PowerPoint and lectures really only go so far, and the half-life of that kind of training is a lot shorter than it is for something that has entertainment involved," said Capt. Charles Marks, the sexual assault prevention and response officer for U.S. Fleet Forces Command. The new peer-led training will be rolled out beginning in November.


Brock Vergakis can be reached at http://www.twitter.com/BrockVergakis

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