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NEWS | Sept. 21, 2020

Sexual assault prevention training continues virtually amid COVID-19

By Tech. Sgt. Erich B. Smith National Guard Bureau

ARLINGTON, Va. – The National Guard Bureau’s Sexual Assault and Prevention Response office is holding its annual training for sexual assault response and victim advocate coordinators Sept. 21-23.

Scheduled to be conducted virtually, the training highlights the National Guard’s commitment to tackle the ongoing threat of sexual assault, said Air Force Col. Stephanie Navas, the NGB’s Sexual Assault and Prevention program division chief.

The training will mostly consist of reviewing and ensuring understanding of SAPR program tools and processes.

One of the main benefits of the training is bringing together sexual assault response and victim advocate coordinators from every state, territory and the District of Columbia to exchange ideas in a virtual environment.

“It allows a lot of open dialogue so that people are able to share ideas, and we are able to take care of any other programs and processes that they might be having difficulty with,” Navas said.

To ensure the virtual environment reinforces learning, Navas said participants would take frequent, short surveys.

“We are going to try to embed a short-action survey after each block so we can receive immediate feedback and get passionate reactions from the field,” she said.

These surveys, Navas said, help ensure the NGB SAPR office understands the challenges the Guard units face and then supports the units as needed.

“We [can] see a picture of what’s happening here at the national level,” she said. “But [to see] what’s happening down at the tactical level, we need to get a lot of input from these surveys to help guide our program in the future.”

The training will include guest speakers such as Army Maj. Gen. Raymond Shields, adjutant general of the New York National Guard.

“When I talk about safety, I mean physical safety of our people, protection from sexual assault, prevention of sexual harassment, and ensuring that everyone is treated equally and fairly,” Shields said, adding that SAPR program representatives in and out of uniform “who do this critical work [are] vital for our organization.”

Breakout sessions will provide opportunities for the 210 participants to have smaller group discussions.

“We have Air and Army [Guard] SARCs, but they both have different policies,” Navas said. “Before we might have focused on one policy or the other, but now we are going to try to get those policies more integrated and build on efficiencies during this type of training event.”

The virtual platform poses some challenges, such as different time zones and technology considerations, but training must go on, said Navas.

“We need to make sure that our service members know we are working on improving this program, building interventions, and developing a prevention model,” she said. “We’re still working – even during COVID-19 – to make sure that we are protecting our population.”

Army Gen. Daniel Hokanson, chief of the National Guard Bureau, said the Guard will carry on with a prevention-driven culture against sexual assault, while “providing the best possible support to victims of these heinous crimes.”

“The National Guard will continue to improve our programs and policies that address sexual assault,” he said. “We work tirelessly to aid survivors in their recovery. This will be one of my highest priorities as it is destructive to our entire organization.”



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