News: I MEF takes stand against sexual assault
Story by Cpl. Jennifer Pirante
CAMP PENDLETON, Calif. - Subordinate commands within I Marine Expeditionary Force conducted all-day mandated sexual assault training, Take a Stand, at Camp Pendleton, Calif., throughout October.
The training was a culmination of yearlong planning and discussion throughout the Marine Corps to tackle an issue many Marines may find complex and tends to stir many emotions. Sexual assault, although primarily male-on-female, can also be male-on-male or even female-on-male. Unfortunately, one solution doesn’t fit all.
MGySgt. John Ubaldi, operations officer with I MEF, said it’s not just an issue among the junior Marines or something that exists among Marines in positions of authority.
“This is pervasive all the way up the chain,” he said.
January 15, the Marine Corps Sexual Assault Prevention and Response (SAPR) Program launched a training course specifically for non-commissioned officers, to gain their unique perspective and stimulate discussion among peers. I MEF NCOs conducted the training in June, which used video components about hypothetical scenarios in the barracks.
Cpl. Samantha Torres, intelligence specialist with I MEF, said she felt the discussions were a step toward reaching a better understanding of what the Marine Corps considers sexual assault, how it occurs and how NCOs can better look out for their Marines.
“You get to hear other people’s views on the situation,” Torres said. “That’s what a discussion does. It brings everyone’s ideas together and everyone gets an opportunity to think about all different aspects of the situation.”
The NCO training was the preliminary to the all-day mandated bystander-focused training conducted among combined ranks.
The first four hours consisted of periods of instruction, followed by questions and answers. The next four hours consisted of group discussion in response to six videos highlighting various instances of sexual assault or bystander situations. The groups were geared toward open discussion about what Marines would do in situations as bystanders or how such situations could have been avoided by either the victim or potential offender.
“The one thing I took away from the training is how prevalent this is,” Ubaldi said. “I am amazed at how many have faced something like (sexual assault/harassment). I knew it was a problem, but I didn’t know how deep it was, and I’m glad the Marine Corps is saying, ‘Hey, we gotta stop this. We’re better than this.’”
The Marine Corps’ sexual assault prevention plan, released June 20, reported 333 sexual assaults between Oct. 1, 2010 and Sept. 30, 2011, 64 of which occurred here at Camp Pendleton. Gen. James Amos, commandant of the Marine Corps, referred to the crimes as “an ugly mark on our proud reputation” and urged ‘true zero tolerance, effective sustainment, empowered reporting, effective deterrence, engaged leadership and evolved culture.”
Whether the answer lies in a change of culture, reinforcing Marine Corps values or implementing effective leadership, the Marines at I MEF continues its aggressive effort to reduce instances of sexual assault within its ranks.