Tuesday, May 12, 2015

USNA Peer Educators Train for the Future

Vice. Adm. Walter “Ted’ Carter, superintendent of the U.S. Naval Academy, addressed the Sexual Harassment and Assault Prevention Education (SHAPE) peer educators during a training session in Chauvenet Hall May 11.

Photo by MC2 Jonathan Correa

The training brought together new and current SHAPE peer educators and midshipmen GUIDEs.  GUIDE stands for Guidance, Understanding, Information, Direction, and Education...about sexual assault prevention and response.

The SHAPE and GUIDE programs were established in 2007, and the training is in place to help the Midshipmen be more effective educators of the SHAPE curriculum.  The GUIDEs receive an in-depth look at various topics so they become the subject matter experts in their companies and are particularly ready for the broader discussion of dignity and respect within the brigade.

The training – and VADM Carter’s remarks - touched on the changing demographics at USNA. This year’s plebe class is on track to possibly be the most gender diverse class in USNA history.

“The incoming plebes are going to come in with their own perception on what a man and a woman is,” said Carter. “We have to help them understand that not only do they have to get to another level on how to integrate, how they behave, how they fit emotional and socially with each other. We have to help them through that and keeping in mind the physical, mental and moral part of our mission here at the academy.”

Carter emphasized the importance of the SHAPE peer educator’s role in communicating USNA values with members of the brigade.

“I refuse to get up in front of the brigade like your dad or grandfather and shake my finger at you and say this is how you have to behave,” said Carter. “First of all, it is just not going to be effectual. What is effectual, and what will make a difference, is when at the peer level you are all willing to have an honest conversation on some of these topics that are sometimes hard to have.”

“It was extremely important for the superintendent to talk with these midshipmen, because it keeps the focus for them on why they’re here,” said Cmdr. Lynn Hammer, Sexual Assault Prevention & Response Program manager. “There is nothing like hearing from senior leadership like the superintendent on how important he thinks it is because it’s like giving them a shot of adrenalin to do what they already know, to take it seriously and do their best.

The mission of the SHAPE program is to foster an environment of equality and assist in the development of future officers who will promote and practice proactive leadership. SHAPE peer educators facilitate discussions about sexual harassment and sexual assault to empower midshipmen with increased awareness and bystander intervention skills.  It stresses the importance of midshipmen accountability and responsibility by entrusting peer educators to execute the curriculum.

Peer educators are hand-selected midshipmen who undergo a thorough interview and selection process. They receive 80 hours of instruction from outside subject matter experts and consultants. Each peer educator enters the SHAPE organization with a 1-year commitment and is charged with ensuring 100% of the total force is trained during the academic year.

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