Military News

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Learning From the Bystander Intervention Pilot Program

From Naval Education and Training Command Public Affairs

ORLANDO, Fla. (NNS) -- The results of a Navy program aimed at eliminating violence against women were briefed at the Department of the Navy Sexual Assault and Prevention Response Summit held in Orlando, Fla., May 4.

Conducted over the past year, the Bystander Intervention Pilot Program was designed to determine the viability of implementing a bystander intervention training program for the Navy and Marine Corps.

"Bystander intervention approaches teach our service members to take action when risky peer behavior is observed," stated Capt. Chuck Hollingsworth, commanding officer of the Center for Personal and Professional Development in Norfolk, Va., which coordinated the contract for the training and collected survey data used to assess its effectiveness. "It's appropriate for all audiences, because while most Sailors don't perpetrate the illegal behavior, all are in a position to stop it."

Using the Mentors in Violence Prevention (MVP) program, the Navy selected 25 commands to participate in the pilot. MVP is a leadership program focused on gender violence prevention and education and was established in 1993 as a multi-racial, mixed-gender training program geared toward high school and college-age students. The program also focuses on professional athletes in the fight against all forms of violence against women. MVP uses bystander intervention as a strategy to prevent sexual violence and has been implemented broadly throughout the country including secondary schools, college athletics, sororities and fraternities, youth service providers, and professional sports associations. Surveys were conducted before and after the MVP training to determine if Sailors realized a change in attitude toward intervention in sexual assault related incidents.

"The survey data indicated a significant attitude change for our junior Sailors (E-4 and below)," said Hollingsworth. "More importantly for our Navy, however, the survey respondents reported 31 interventions that took place because of the training. These are incidents that were avoided because Sailors took care of Sailors."

In the MVP model for training delivery, Sailors who were designated as command trainers received two days of intense MVP training, including a "teach-back" session, and then returned to deliver the peer-to-peer training to their units. Class participants receive training in areas including gender relations, abuses of power and discussions of social norms, all centered on the principle of supporting mutual dignity and respect.

"Bystander intervention is clearly a great fit for the Navy culture," said CPPD Command Master Chief (SW/AW) Stephan Fontenot. "It is all about Sailors taking care of Sailors, and these skills can be used not only to prevent sexual assault, but for numerous other situations where our Sailors find themselves needing to watch each others' backs.

Bystander intervention training is one piece of a larger strategy addressing changes in attitudes and behaviors about sexual assault. Based on the results of the pilot, Navy leadership is currently assessing the best way to provide bystander intervention skills throughout the Navy.

"We've all taken an oath to 'support and defend'," Hollingsworth concluded. "It's time we started applying that oath to our own force."

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