NORFOLK, Va., Jan. 6 (UPI) -- In response to a surge in military sexual assaults the U.S. Navy has begun volunteer patrols where sailors wander their base engaging with fellow enlistees.
The program, one of several the Navy has implemented in the wake of a shocking report alleging 26,000 sexual assaults took place in the military in a single year, has been a success in at least one place, Norfolk Naval Station in Virginia, where Petty Officer 1st Class Karen Thompson is one of the volunteers.
During a recent weekend night patrol Thompson -- whose uniform is outfitted with a red "patrol" badge indicating she's there to prevent sexual assaults -- met with dozens of sailors and encouraged them to stay out of trouble.
Thompson told the (Norfolk) Virginian-Pilot the patrols are useful in keeping fellow sailors on the up-and-up.
Andrew Thompson, the command master chief for the mid-Atlantic region, who oversees sex assault cases, said raising awareness is crucial to cutting down the number of incidents. While the Navy says it's too soon to tell whether sex assaults are going down, reporting is going up, which Thompson said is a good thing -- meaning at least victims feel more comfortable reporting sex assaults.
"Bringing this type of awareness engages [people] and makes them want to come forward and say, 'Hey, this happened to me,'" he said. "I think they understand that people are listening."