Leave it to sex education to educate.
The New York Times reports that the Navy has seen a 60 percent reduction in what they call "serious sexual assaults" at their Great Lakes training base over the last two years. This heartening (if overdue) news seems to be the result of an extensive new anti-sexual assault training program given to Navy recruits during their weeklong boot camp on the coast of Lake Michigan.
The program includes a series of videos, speakers, and discussions that encourage sailors to intervene when they witness inappropriate behavior. Special focus is also being given to the role of alcohol, which is suspected to be a significant factor in about half of military sexual assault cases.
These education efforts are not the only preventative measures being taken at the base. Bars and pubs on the Great Lakes grounds are now prohibited from serving sailors more than one drink at a time. The Navy has also instated "town patrols" along the coastline of Lake Michigan, which involve sending naval watchdogs to places where heavy drinking and sexual assault might occur.
Military sexual assault became shockingly public this year after a Pentagon report estimated that 26,000 members of the military had suffered from sexual violence in 2012 alone.
While this new program represents progress, questions remain about how much the culture of sexual violence has really changed. The Navy's definition of "serious sexual assaults," after all, only includes nonconsensual penetration, ignoring a whole range other issues.
Still, the results of the Great Lakes experiment have proved promising enough to convince the Navy to export the program to several other training bases. We'll have to wait and see whether the Great Lakes "petri dish" will produce the same level of progress elsewhere.