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CHICAGO — As pressure mounts on military leaders to crack down on sexual abuse in the armed forces, some encouraging news is coming out of the Naval base outside of Chicago: A pilot program aimed at reducing the number of sexual assaults that just might be working.
Officials at Naval Station Great Lakes say that since a targeted awareness and victim support program was launched in 2010, there have been 50 percent fewer reports of assaults to the base’s Training Support Center, where the most serious attacks are generally reported, the Chicago Sun-Times reported.
“The results that we have tracked are promising and encouraging,” said Capt. Caroline Nielson, chief of staff at Navy Region Midwest. Nielson said that at the center, where about 16,000 sailors learn specialized training, the number of sexual assaults dropped by half in 2011, decreased again in 2012 and have leveled off this year. The Navy did not provide exact numbers.
Under the program, sailors are taught to intervene when they see their mates in trouble or engaging in bad behavior, as well as educate military medical staff to treat victims of sexual assault with more sensitivity, And because its own analysis showed the majority of reported cases of sexual assault involved alcohol, the base has worked with local hotels and bars to crack down on drinking on sailors from the naval station.
The training at the station where thousands of sailors come for specialized training begins almost immediately, and recruits receive training three times within eight weeks. At the Training Support Center, sailors are taught “Bystander Intervention Training,” which Neilson said is aimed at teaching sailors to recognize “anything that goes kind of beyond sexual flirting.”
The results come at a particularly troubling time for the military. Last month the Pentagon released a report that estimated the number of military members to have been sexually assaulted last year could have been as high as 26,000. And just last week, the Army said it had suspended a two-star general who commands the U.S. Army forces in Japan after he allegedly failed to report or properly investigate an allegation of sexual assault.
The results of the Great Lakes program have been encouraging enough for a Navy official to say that it has been expanded to San Diego and will be employed at bases in Japan and Italy within the next six months.