By Cmdr. Lyn Hammer
Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Program Manager, U.S. Naval Academy
Program manager for sexual assault prevention and response is a really unique role and a great opportunity for me. I get to focus on what we do to bring light to this issue; how we train the midshipmen, faculty and staff; how we keep that constant drumbeat and keep this topic alive; how we empower people to make a difference. My focus is prevention and maintaining a climate where victims of sexual assault feel safe coming forward.
I bring a few things to the job that I believe help me as program manager for such an important program. First, I am a 1992 graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy, and I am extremely proud and grateful to be a graduate. I have a developing family legacy that I rely upon greatly for this position; my husband is a 1990 graduate from the academy and a retired U.S. Marine Corps aviator, and my sister is a 2004 graduate and a Navy doctor. I am proud of what this institution stands for and of the fundamental qualities of honor, courage and commitment that are part of its fabric. As its mission states, the Naval Academy has played a significant role in my moral, mental and physical development, and I am honored to return here to serve in such a capacity.
I also am a mother of three children. My son is currently a member of the Brigade of Midshipmen, and I am grateful for this unique perspective of seeing the academy through his lens as well as my own. As a mother of two daughters, one of whom is a high school senior in the midst of college applications, I am concerned about their safety and ability to thrive and reach their potential, wherever it may be. Should my daughters decide to attend USNA, I would feel completely confident that they would be in a safe and secure environment that is aggressive about both safeguarding all from sexual harassment and sexual assault and holding those accountable who violate such a safeguard. I think my son and my daughters would be safer here than at any other college or university in the country.
I say this because the Naval Academy does more than any other academic institution to train and educate our students about sexual assault and prevention. We are still dealing with incidents of harassment, unwanted sexual contact and assault, but we are tackling this problem aggressively.
We are committed to eliminating incidents of sexual assault, stressing that sexual assault has no place at the Naval Academy or the military or society at large.
The Naval Academy family is committed to being part of the solution in its elimination, but sexual assault is not a Naval Academy problem alone. It is not a military problem alone. It is a problem that affects the entire country and world, and therefore we must continue to focus on this issue as a reminder to watch out for each other always – on and off duty, near and away from the academy. Active bystander intervention and overall prevention education is an important element to our program.
The Naval Academy takes this challenge extremely seriously, and I am thankful for the leadership and support of USNA Superintendent Vice Adm. Miller. Sexual assault is a crime, and runs contrary to everything the Naval Academy represents, and – moreover – is destructive to everything the Naval Academy attempts to accomplish in the development of our midshipmen. I have benefited greatly from Vice Adm. Miller’s strong guidance to the Naval Academy family regarding SAPR. Everywhere I turn, faculty, staff, and midshipmen want to talk to me about sexual assault prevention and response; they want to share ideas and offer to help. This is incredibly encouraging and motivating to me to continue to work hard and make a positive difference.
The Naval Academy endeavors to instill an expectation that each and every midshipman treat one another with dignity and mutual respect. We emphasize the importance of teamwork, respect and trust, and learning to rely on one another, just as we must rely on our shipmates in the Fleet. We continued to beat that drum as we welcomed the Brigade back to the Yard, where they began classes for the fall semester August 19. Vice Adm. Miller has taken this message to USNA coaches, faculty, team captains and every class of midshipmen as part of their briefings to prepare them for the new semester.
So, what are we doing at USNA?
Our emphasis on sexual assault prevention and education focuses on instilling a lasting appreciation for mutual respect and dignity between both peers and subordinates.
Our four-year curriculum includes over 30 hours dedicated to education on sexual harassment and assault, one of the highest standards in the nation. The continual improvement of the Brigade’s climate toward gender relations has been, and will remain, a persistent focus. Ultimately, we want to maintain a positive environment in which midshipmen can learn and develop. Since December 2012 alone, following the results of the most recent biennial Service Academy Gender Relations survey, we have taken a number of new steps to address this critical issue.
- We conducted a sexual assault “Stampout” stand-down in early January, with Secretary of Navy Ray Mabus, Chief of Naval Operations Jonathan Greenert and the senior leadership of the Naval Academy addressing the entire student body. This stand-down included small group discussions and training sessions with members of each class. Additionally, all midshipmen completed new Sexual Assault Prevention and Response training modules.
- We performed a comprehensive assessment of our command climate and sexual assault education and response program by a newly formed task force comprised of civilian and military experts – many of whom were external to the Academy, as well as recent alumni and current midshipmen.
- Naval Academy leadership visited other Navy training commands to align and integrate their best practices. Additionally, the superintendent and commandant of midshipmen have corresponded with numerous presidents and chancellors of other nationally recognized universities to better understand their programs and best practices.
- Recognizing the strong role alcohol abuse plays in most incidents of sexual assault and harassment, we have reemphasized responsible use of alcohol. Additionally, we have established and will maintain involvement with the local community and businesses, including local restaurant and bar owners, to enforce underage drinking laws and reduce excessive alcohol consumption.
- Aimed at improving victim support, we conducted a detailed manning assessment of my Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office; and, we are hiring two civilian sexual assault response coordinators and one additional civilian victim advocate to serve the Brigade. The Naval Academy Sexual Assault Prevention and Response team, composed of specially trained faculty, staff, clinical specialists, and midshipmen, is more than 170 strong – the most robust college/university effort in the nation.
- We have instituted “confidentiality agreements” for anyone questioned regarding possible sexual assault incidents to reduce rumors, such that victims of sexual assault will be more willing to come forward and report.
We know that the elimination of sexual assault requires the constant focus of leadership and there is no “finish line.”
I am proud of our efforts thus far to address this critically important issue, and do not believe you will find a more effective or determined effort at any other university in our country. I truly believe that our continued approach to confronting sexual assault and attempting to eradicate this crime is a distinguishing feature at the Naval Academy, and other services academies, from other institutions of higher learning.
Sexual assault has no place at the Naval Academy, just as it has no place in the rest of the military, or in American culture at large. Sexual assault is an attack on the values we defend and the cohesion our units demand. The Academy is a family, and we want all midshipmen to feel safe here during their development into leaders and officers.
We encourage and train every member of the Brigade of Midshipmen, staff and faculty to take care of that family and eliminate the harm that is created by incidents of sexual assault and harassment.
As a quarter of our student body turns over each year to graduation and the arrival of the new class, we recognize that this is an ongoing process. In our persistent pursuit of perfection – morally, mentally and physically – we believe that we can achieve the excellence that is the hallmark of the Naval Academy.
Additional information and resources to combat sexual assault are available at http://www.sapr.navy.mil. Sexual assault affects Navy readiness, and the Navy is committed to preventing sexual assault. Join the Navy’s conversation about sexual assault on social media and help raise awareness by using #NavySAPR.