The White House's "It's on us" campaign to raise sexual abuse awareness of U.S. campuses struck a more specific tone on its first stop at the U.S. Naval Academy earlier this month. There, Vice President Joe Biden linked the fighting of sexual abuse in the military to the honor and responsibility expected of those who serve in our armed forces.
"'No' means 'No,' whether in the street or in your bed," Biden told an audience of midshipmen. "Proceed from there. It is a crime, it is rape or assault, period." He also added that not tolerating sexual assault in military culture is a "matter of honor" and that midshipmen who will eventually serve as military leaders must recognize that they will have the responsibility to protect men and women they serve from such crimes.
Biden's remarks may have been inspired by the Naval Academy's recent struggles with sex crimes. As Start & Stripes reports, in the 2013-2014 school year, the Academy had 23 reports of sexual assault-- the highest the Academy's had since the Department of Defense started tracking sex crime statistics at military academies. In one 2013 case, a midshipman claimed that she had been sexually assaulted by three classmates, two of which were never charged. The third was acquitted.
VOICING THE MESSAGE EARLY
Lawmakers, commanders, and advocates have all made military sexual assault awareness a priority in the last few years, but few of those efforts seem to punctuate the need to build that awareness into early military training and education. At the Naval academy, all students receive 30 hours of training under S.H.A.P.E. (Sexual Harassment and Assault Prevention Education) that covers how to foster healthy environment for all midshipmen and support sexual assault survivors.
Stars & Stripes also spoke with Midshipman 2nd Class Shaquil Keels, who is on the "It's on us" national student board. Keels said that a friend from his youth that had been assaulted inspired him to join. "I had no idea what to do about the situation," he said told the paper, "because I never imagined that someone close to me would become a victim."
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