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Navy Working to Eliminate Sexual Assaults

By Lea Sutton
|  Wednesday, Apr 24, 2013  |  Updated 9:03 PM PDT
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Navy Working to Eliminate Sexual Assaults

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The Navy is taking action at the highest levels in an effort to tackle a problem that's plagued its ranks:  sexual assault.

Vice Chief of Naval Operations, Admiral Mark Ferguson was in San Diego today,  specifically addressing this issue with the most senior Navy leaders in the region.

Navy rape victim, Carla Butcher says she'd been in the service for only 6 months, when she was repeatedly raped by another sailor after a night out with friends.

"I would continue to pass out ask him to stop and he was overpowering me - there was nothing I could do,” said Butcher.

The Navy acknowledges that it's a problem.  There were nearly 600 reported assaults last year alone, and they know most go unreported.

“This is a leadership challenge for us to address and to set a responsible and professional work environment for all our sailors," said Admiral Ferguson.

Now the Navy is trying to help victims of sexual assault like Carla, by preventing it all together.

They have a new pilot program in San Diego focused on preventing sexual assaults that grow out of behavior such as drinking, and what they call “poor risk management.”

"We've brought the alcohol detection devices for testing sailors in their use of alcohol during the work day, we have chiefs and officers in barracks at nighttime," said Admiral Ferguson.

Butcher says part of the problem is that many victims are afraid to report assaults for fear of repercussions. 

“The same sailor sexually assaulted a girl on my ship.  She told immediately the same day, and the next morning she had a first class ticket off that ship,” said Butcher.

The Navy says they’re trying to address that issue too. 

“What we're going to look for are one, that victims feel safe to report them, and second that we have mechanisms in place to support that victim," said Admiral Ferguson.
               
Butcher says anything that prevents rape is a good thing, but having lived through it, she's skeptical. 

"I'll believe it when I see it, but I want to be hopeful," said Butcher.

Admiral Ferguson says senior leaders have already been patrolling barracks at night on San Diego bases, and the Navy also plans to reach out to local businesses, like bars, for their help in preventing contributing behavior.

He says they'll know the program is working when they see a decrease in the number of reported assaults, and when those numbers better correlate with anonymous sexual assault surveys.

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