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The Sexual Assault Prevention and Response program at Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni uses a hard-hitting approach to train base personnel that has caught the attention of Defense Department personnel.

The DOD has faced criticism for its sexual assault programs and less-than-vigorous investigations of reported cases.

Of the 1,386 military sexual assault investigations in 2005, almost half, or 641, were dropped because the cases were “unfounded, lacked sufficient evidence, or the victim recanted,” according to a Pentagon report earlier this year.

Iwakuni’s program is an ongoing effort, but in connection with National Sexual Assault Awareness Month, an “Assault on Sexual Assault Day” was held earlier this month, said Maj. Matthew D. Razvillas, Iwakuni’s station inspector and sexual assault response coordinator.

The program included five 45-minute classes given to a total of about 1,500 Marines, sailors and civilians. At the beginning of the program, Razvillas asked attendees to lower their heads and think about the last time they had a sexual experience.

“I was the one he called on after that,” said Gunnery Sgt. Brandey Catledge, from Headquarters and Headquarters Squadron. “He asked me to tell everybody in detail about the experience I was thinking of. I stood up and told him, ‘No, I won’t. That’s nobody’s business.’”

She had perfectly illustrated the point Razvillas was making.

“If people feel so private about a sexual relationship that was consensual,” said Catledge, in her eighth year of marriage, “just imagine how intensely private and sensitive they’d feel about a sexual assault. That really made an impact.”

Sexual assault is one of the most underreported crimes “due to the emotional and personal violation,” said Razvillas, who has been invited to share his expertise at a DOD Joint Task Force on Sexual Assault meeting June 20-22 in St. Louis.

“I address [the] DOD … about our program, how we implement it and educate our community on prevention of sexual assault and reporting procedures,” he said. “Also, I feel strongly in our program that we will not only present information for victims but also for” potential offenders. “They need to learn the criminal ramifications.”

Asked about the extent of the problem in Iwakuni, Razvillas said any assault on a servicemember “is one too many. In the cases that I’ve seen here, almost all involve alcohol abuse.”

Attendees said his training is effective, far more than routine general military training sessions.

“It was so much better than someone showing a PowerPoint presentation, asking if anyone has questions and then going back to work,” Catledge said. “It was all interactive.”

Iwakuni’s program operates with one paid civilian victim advocate directing and training about 40 uniformed victim advocates and six volunteer victim advocates.

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