It’s another survey, but an important one: A confidential and anonymous online survey by the Navy’s Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office. The Navy wants sailors, Marines and Department of the Navy civilians to fill it out and help assess the “functionality and effectiveness” of the SAPR program and, perhaps more importantly, to help the Navy determine just how widespread the problem is within the ranks.
The Navy and Marine Corps tallied more than 900 sexual assaults during the 12 months that ended Sept. 30, 2010.
The Navy, however, admits its data on sexual assault incidents fall well short of an accurate tally of the frequency of the crime, which is widely underreported in the civilian world as well as the military. The Pentagon estimates that only about 20 percent of incidents of unwanted sexual contact are reported. If that’s true, according to Navy undersecretary Robert Work, it could mean that thousands of such incidents take place every year in the Navy and Marine Corps.
“I think as a department, we’ve got to really, really step up our game,” Work told Navy Times during the Navy 2011 Sexual Assault Prevention Summit in Orlando, Fla., in May.
Better knowledge of the problem, officials say, will help focus efforts where they’re most needed.
“It is important that as many sailors and Marines as possible provide us their thoughts and opinions on our ongoing efforts to combat sexual assault,” said Rear Adm. Martha Herb, director of the Personal Readiness and Community Support Branch. “The survey responses will help us gauge our progress and serve to guide our program adjustments for increased effectiveness at combating sexual assault Department-wide.”
The survey, open through Sept. 30, aims to expand that knowledge base. Participation is entirely voluntary, officials say.