Navy works to prevent sexual assault: ‘What’s the Tea’ focuses on education and fun

Latrice Washington-Williams (left), a Navy civilian victim advocate, talks with Sherry Williams, the sexual assault and response coordinator at Kimbrough. (Photo by Lisa R. Rhodes)

What are some of the tactics that concerned bystanders can use when they confront a situation where someone is sexually harassed?

That’s one of the questions Latrice Washington-Williams, the civilian victim advocate for the Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office of Navy Cryptologic Warfare Group Six, asked a small gathering of victim advocates and DoD civilians during the “What’s the Tea” on Aug. 24.

The 90-minute event, held at the Fleet and Family Support Center, was an informal education session about the SAPR program for new victim advocates and the Fort Meade community.

Washington-Williams, who organized the event, said she took the name of the seminar from the slang that many teens and young adults use when asking for information about a topic.

“They say. ‘What’s the tea?’ when they’re asking for information,” she said. “Our goal is to prevent and eliminate sexual assault and put SAPR with a name so people know who to go to, to report a sexual assault.”

Kimberly Garrett, the sexual assault response coordinator for Navy Cryptologic Warfare Group Six, also attended.

For fun, Washington-Williams created a bingo game called “What’s the TEA” for the event. She asked participants a wide range of questions about sexual assault and the military’s guidelines for reporting an incident and helping a survivor.

The answers to the questions were printed on a “What’s the TEA” bingo card. Participants selected the correct answer on the card. The first person to get “bingo” was given a free gift.

The participants discussed the taboo surrounding sexual assault and the barriers that prevent survivors from reporting an incident; the cultural biases surrounding sexual harassment; the responsibilities of a trusted friend for a survivor of sexual assault; and the differences between a restricted and unrestricted report for an incident.

Lt. Matthew Gray, a uniformed victim advocate with the Cyber Strike Activity 63, a new command under Navy Cryptologic Warfare Group Six, said he enjoyed the “What’s the TEA” bingo game.

“It was a fun way to review what he talked about,” said Gray, who attended the event with his wife, Stephanie.

Pam Stangee, the transition manager at the Fleet and Family Support Center, said the work SAPR does is critical.

“Victims need to know that there is support for them,” she said. “It’s important to make sure that people know about the program.”

Capt. Joe Johnson, commodore of Navy Cryptologic Warfare Group Six, dropped by to participate in the tea.

“I am incredibly proud of this team of amazing professionals,” Johnson said after the event. “Their collective compassion, expertise and devotion to the program. Sailors, civilians and victims are a great inspiration.

“We cannot rest until sexual assault is totally eliminated. It is devastating to the victims, and it is detrimental to our missions,” he said. “We will continue our efforts to educate all hands in the prevention of sexual assault, and to provide support and care to those affected by it.”

Washington-Williams said the victim advocates in the program are committed to helping people in need.

“We will turn no one down,” she said. “We’re not going to be judgmental. We need to confide in each other and hold that trust so people can feel strong enough to get help.”

After the event, Gray said his volunteer work as a victim advocate is necessary.

“Sexual assault is one of the things that happens to people that can really be devastating for them,” he said. “I wanted to help people and make sure they get the services they need and be able to move past this to reintegrate into the military or move on to whatever they want to do in life.”

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