As the Navy’s Sexual Assault Prevention and Response (SAPR) program continues to make improvements in primary prevention, current events remind us that sexual violence is rooted in forms of oppression, including racism. If we are to prevent sexual assaults from occurring, then the work begins by challenging inequality and unjust systems, attitudes and behaviors.

Do you know how oppression is related to sexual violence? It is both cause and effect. On an individual level, a person who commits sexual violence may target someone who has less power in the world and has access to fewer resources for help. On a broader scale, we can see the relationship between sexual violence and oppression in adherence to rigid gender roles, normalization of violence and less resource allocation or funding for marginalized populations, to name a few.

So what can we do with all of these forces at work, especially when they seem bigger than us? As the Chief of Naval Operations (CNO), Admiral Mike Gilday, mentioned in his June 3, 2020 message to the Fleet, “First right now, I think we need to listen.”

The CNO also shared information on addressing racist comments that directly translates into skills for speaking up to prevent sexual violence, “So, when that happens, I want you to think about approaching that person. Think about dignity and respect. Think about having a private conversation – an honest conversation in educating them. Make them more self-aware of what they did and what they said. If we don’t do that, racism, injustice, indignity and disrespect – it’s going to grow and it’s going to continue.”

For more information or to make a report of sexual assault, contact your local Sexual Assault Response Coordinator (SARC) via the DoD Safe Helpline at 877-995-5247 and To learn more about the topics mentioned in this article, check out these resources.

CNO Message to Sailors:

National Sexual Violence Resource Center:

Connecticut Media Group