Ship Hosts Skit Tackling Sexual Assault In Military

Performance With Scenarios Of Sexual Assault Aims To Help Sailors Understand Risky Situations, How To Respond

New video obtained by 10News shows a unique performance on the locally-based ship USS Makin Island.

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"What kind of sick son of a [expletive] would do something like this," shouted one man playing the role of a sailor during a skit. In another scene, a woman is slapped on the bottom.

"There was no sugarcoating," said Justine Pennel, a radar technician and crew member. "It was in your face."

About 600 sailors onboard the USS Makin Island in San Diego Bay watched a performance of the skit last Wednesday.

The performances were filled with scenarios of sexual assault performed by actors from Central Michigan University, who were flown in for a program targeting young sailors.

"It's their language and its social situations they understand," said Jill Loftus, the director of the Navy's Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office.

The program hopes to make them understand risky situations and how to respond.

According to a Pentagon report, there were almost 3,200 sexual assaults in 2011. Military leaders acknowledge the actual number is likely much higher.

The skit marks the military's new approach in tackling the issue. The program is called "No Zebras" because it teaches troops not to allow a member of the herd to be picked off by a predator.

The Navy introduced its Bystander Intervention program as a part of a pilot project and has spent nearly $900,000 to create the programs.

"The message is we want each sailor to take this personally," said Loftus. "We want them to know this could happen to someone they know and someone they love. If they take it personally, they will take responsibility to intervene."

For one sailor, the message was heard and felt.

"It was very powerful," said sailor Matthew Francis. "I would absolutely be more comfortable intervening in a situation."

Copies of a recording of the program will be distributed to ships and military bases late this year.

Military leaders say they also hope to schedule more live performances next year.

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