San Diego, California - Commander, Navy Region Southwest (NRSW) is taking steps in combating sexual assault during Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM).

This year's theme for SAAM 2014 is "Live Our Values: Step Up to Stop Sexual Assault." The goal is to empower each individual command to take ownership of this problem by focusing on the values fellow service members should embody day in and day out.

Naval Base San Diego (NBSD) kicked off the month by presenting SAAM commencement event April 3. The kickoff helped Sailors show their support for victims and reaffirm their commitment to promoting the Navy's culture that celebrates healthy sexuality based on dignity and respect for all. Ted Bunch, a nationally known activist and educator spoke about the underlying causes of violence and discrimination against women, and provided Sailors with tools, practical methods and strategies to understand the connection and how to positively address those social issues.

During the event NBSD Commanding Officer Capt. Curt Jones shared the importance of the month and emphasized that sexual assault is something that Sailors must commit to remove.

"At Naval Base San Diego, we are stepping up to stomp out sexual assault," said Jones. "At all levels - from our most junior Sailors to our senior leadership, we must unite to do as we say: the Navy does not tolerate sexual assault. As a commanding officer, I take the responsibility for creating a command where Sailors treat each other with dignity and respect seriously."

But NBSD is not the only one joining in the action. Installations within the Southwest Region are responding by hosting leadership training, 5k walk/runs, setting up information booths and conducting training throughout commands.

Naval Air Weapons Station China Lake Commanding Officer Capt. Richard A. Wiley signed a proclamation outlying his support for SAAM.

It reads in part:

"With leadership, dedication, and encouragement, there is compelling evidence that we can be successful in reducing sexual violence within the Navy through prevention education, increased awareness and holding perpetrators of sexual assault responsible for their actions," said Wiley. "Naval Air Weapons Station China Lake strongly supports the dedicated efforts of national, state, and local partners, to include citizens actively engaged in the prevention, awareness and response efforts surrounding sexual violence whose goals are to eradicate sexual violence."

The Navy's goal is to reduce and eliminate sexual assault by fostering a culture of prevention through education and training, which includes encouraging Sailors to take action through bystander intervention. Bystander intervention training helps Sailors understand their critical role in prevention and how they must intervene to reduce risk, stop inappropriate behavior, and report crimes.

Tenant commands like Naval Weapons Station Seal Beach show their support of bystander intervention with partnership with local Naval Criminal Investigative Service offices. NCIS hosts sexual assault prevention classes so Sailors can have a better understanding in how they can help prevent the issue.

"Sexual assault has no place in my Navy," said Cmdr. Paul Werring, executive officer, Naval Weapons Station Seal Beach. "We have made important strides in sexual assault prevention awareness, but this is the time for us to really focus on this vital issue. We must work together as a team and reinvigorate our commitment to avoid the 'summer surge' of sexual assaults we experienced last year. We need to educate our Sailors on 'bystander interference' and the need to always look out for themselves and their shipmates."

Aside from training, Naval Base Coronado and Naval Air Station Lemoore have reinforced efforts to prevent and eliminate sexual assault by increasing roving barracks and beach patrols, especially during weekend hours.

NRSW is not only helping Sailors by making their bases safer, but by keeping them informed in a way that is more convenient for them.

By implementing new rules and training, the Navy has made great progress in adopting a more proactive and comprehensive approach to tackling the problem of sexual assault. Through the support of local installations like NRSW the Navy can continue to change the culture surrounding this issue.

April has been designated as Sexual Assault Awareness Month for the past 10 years. The goal of the month is for individual commands to pause and reflect on what the Navy has accomplished over the past year with regard to sexual assault prevention and response and to look into the future as to how Sailors can continue to eradicate this crime from their ranks. Commands are empowered to take ownership of this problem.

For listings of SAAM-related events and activities in NRSW, visit www.facebook.com/NavyRegionSouthwest. For help or support, call the Navy Region Southwest SAPR hotline at 619-692-5909, or the DoD Safe helpline at 877-995-5247.