Navy obstacle course brings awareness to sexual assault

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) — Every 98 seconds, an American is sexually assaulted according to the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network (RAINN).

Statistics compiled by the organization show each year nearly 19,000 service members experience unwanted sexual contact.

On Wednesday, there was a unique event at Naval Station Oceana, meant to bring awareness to sexual assault.

Advocates say getting people talking about it is an important first step.

“We don’t want any more victims. We’re not allowing it to happen anymore,” LCDR Antone Eliasen, NAS Oceana said to the crowd.

The men and women took off in groups, running, crawling, flipping tires, throwing paint filled balloons to blot out sexual assault – even jumping a wall.

It was all done to complete a two-mile obstacle course called the “Awareness Challenge.”

“The challenge is for people to stop and take notice, getting them talking about it,” Amy Wade-Smith, Lead Installation Sexual Assault Response Coordinator told 10 On Your Side’s Brandi Cummings

Signs along the course make April’s Sexual Assault and Prevention month message clear.

“You can’t make it something that’s so hush-hush that nobody wants to discuss. We’ve got to put it out there,” Wade-Smith said.

There are several events planned throughout the month some focused on fun, but all with the goal of overcoming the fear of not speaking up.

“So we’re challenging everybody to stand up and do something,” Wade-Smith said.

Spearheaded by the Navy’s Sexual Assault and Prevention Response Program, known as SAPR, the event falls in line with the missions to prevent and respond to sexual assaults, but also to eliminate that crime from the ranks.

“Everybody is required to do annual SAPR training. When people check into a new command they get a brief on that. Our COs get a brief every time they take command. I think it’s just a matter of reinforcing kind of over and over again that a- the program is here and that there’s help available, Wade-Smith said.

According to last year’s annual report on sexual assault in the military, overall reporting remained consistent.

There were more than 6,000 reports involving service members but a survey revealed more than 16,000 cases where service members intervened in situations they believed may have become a sexual assault.

“From our perspective, from the victim perspective – if people are coming forward and reporting, we’re winning,” Wade-Smith said.

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