Veterans on SA Training in the Military: Savon Crisp (Part 1)
Our editors at Uprizine have been working on compiling a collection of interviews with TUJ veterans. The questions relate to sexual assault training they received during their time in the military.
As some TUJ students may recall, we had a Sexual Assault (SA) training module coupled with an alcohol awareness one last semester. Since that training program - which was online and took a couple of hours - we’ve heard accounts of fellow classmates bringing up similar training they had received in different occupations prior to entering TUJ. They largely complained about the ineffectiveness of such a program, and how much of a waste of time it is as someone who had already been through it.
It got us interested in what sorts of training others might have received. TUJ has a largely diverse student body. For example, some students enroll straight out of high school having received little to no SA training previously, let alone sexual education. Would these modules be the most effective for these types of students?
On the flipside, some come from other backgrounds, particularly professional and military. We were informed by some veterans that the military requires seemingly extensive, repetitive training on the subject. We were then curious to know the content, capacity, and honest retention of this training from different perspectives. We began thinking about whether or not they could offer opinions and advice for TUJ’s efforts on SA and Harassment awareness. We’ve been working with TUJ to raise awareness on these two serious topics (if you’ve noticed the fairly new bathroom signs and Deputy Title IX Coordinator), and want to expand this more by seeing how other institutions have conducted such training and the extent of their impact.
We honestly went into these interviews thinking they would provide us with interesting insight, given these veteran’s first hand accounts as professionals who have been through this training, repeatedly.
Thus, we decided to interview six TUJ veterans using the same 10 questions. Interviews were conducted in person and via online. Because we received such great answers and feedback from our interviewees, we decided that each interview needed to be published as its own testimony. A final piece will then be published that is fully written by our Editors as a sort of reflection on our objectives coming into this project, lessons learned, and recommendations for TUJ’s efforts.
Our first interviewee was Savon Crisp.
Where did you serve and for how long?
I was in the Navy for four years, and am technically still on reserve due to the 8 year obligation with occasional orders. I served in Japan, and chased for orders in Yokosuka.
What kind of sexual assault prevention training did you receive?
Lots. I have been bombarded. We call it “death by PowerPoint.” Usually, it would be given every three to four months but at any moment in time, your leader can call for it to happen. You can also make it yourself and create your own training. I was a SAPR (Sexual Assault Prevention and Response) advocate.
One of the things we did, was create plays that reflected sexual assault to raise awareness. I acted in a few as the lead actor, and put plays on for military personnel in Yokosuka. It would be a straight narrative with 3D characters, scripted and created by me. I incorporated societal narratives and different types of rape (guy x guy, girl x girl, etc.). A whole anthology of scenarios. I did these kinds of plays for two years.
The training we received was more protocol oriented. They don’t give you scenarios of what could've happened. More of what to do, and what not to do; what is assault, and what is infringement. It was repetitive.
How much did you retain?
I retained plenty. Not just from repetition, but because of the environment I was in. The military has people of all shapes and sizes, you're going to just want to respect each other. There are things: ethos, honor, courage, and commitment. There's no honor in harassing or assaulting someone. You have to commit to that community you're a part of and support victims in it. The culture is “don't be an asshole,” so when that's in focus, it shows you what kind of people would do it in the first place, and you know what kind of people to then look for.
How often did you receive it?
In what capacity did you receive this training? i.e. were you alone, in a group and if so what kind of group? Mixed gender, small, large, divided by rank or something else?
Mixed gender. My leadership was all female-- you put the uniform on and you see nothing else. I think despite some ideas or presumptions about the military, we’re actually quite liberal in the sense that we care about our jobs and how competent one is. But not morality or where you come from.
How helpful do you think the training was for you personally? How about for your peers?
Things like rape or assault; anything that induces trauma is heavy. Something as simple as a Quizlet or showing stuff on a screen doesn’t get deep enough to show how raw these things are. It takes more than a PowerPoint to get to people. Making it real for people is the most effective way. When we wrote those scripts and acted in those plays, people were crying. When we did role plays and had people stand in as a victim or bystander, things got emotional.
Sometimes, talking is the answer. Sometimes, there are cases where people can get over their trauma without trying to push through anything, and have a support group to get through it. Enabling conversations about that is necessary. You can't make them feel like they're causing trouble.
I can think of this one incident, when there was infringement involved. This guy was the biggest guy I've seen in Japan. I don't think I would've had the heart to stop him if I wasn't trained mentally, for stress. When you come into those situations you can’t take a test on that, it’s life.
It's scary for the victim and the people trying to stop him. In that moment he's a monster. It's apathy for the sake of an appetite. It's weird but it takes courage to talk and stand up. We need to treat that with as much care. Speaking up can be scary, especially for a black man. Guys can even be afraid to speak out in these situations to protect a girl.
What do you think could have been improved on in the training the military gave you when you were an officer? This could be for your personal benefit, or the benefit of others based on your observation of their opinions and retention.
I think that how you convert people is by showing them the ugly. Without an emotional connection, it means nothing. When I was a kid, I was victimitzed, and I think that’s why I’m so into this. At the end of the day, it’s really just you.
Currently, TUJ is promoting assault and harassment awareness in multiple ways. If you know about this, what you think is working and what do you think is not?
You can’t rely on institutions to take down monsters. Some of them are the monsters. Harvey fucking Weinstein was a major leader in his industry. If Terry Crews can be a victim, who’s safe? I think there’s an out of touch idea that you can tell people not to do things, and that they’ll listen and actually won’t.
People think movements are the answer, and I agree with that to some extent, but movements need to empower. There are times when I wonder how many victims could have not been victims if they had just raised their voices.
There’s a man at TUJ, I’ve seen him do things to female students. I was walking to class one day and a staff member was going at him, and I assumed what it was about. When I got close, I heard the staff telling him off for the same thing I was thinking, and that reinforced my opinions on what I had seen him do.
I think that the school is taking a more closed in, but intimate approach. I’m not sure if that’s a bad thing. I think formal consequences should be put forth when all else fails. When your friends, family, culture fails. That’s when you raise hell. That shit fucks with you, that person will never be the same. Intimate, direct action works right now because it’s a small institution, but I don’t know about after the move.
Therapy is a great resource that this school provides. I always advocate for people to go there. I think that school should push for, and advertise it more! I’ve gone to therapy my entire adult life.
Would any of the training you described, work in a university setting?
The online test we had to take for TUJ was ridiculous. When you are put in scenarios like the ones showcased in the training, you don’t pick what to do out of four options. Not everything is black and white, right or wrong.
I think these trainings come from a right place. I think it’s good to introduce these things to people that have never left their mom’s house because society does it for you eventually, and you build your own understanding of it later on, whether right or wrong. And despite hating the PowerPoints, I would still say that we should do them… just maybe not as frequently.
Hikari and Lily interviewed Savon in person. Thank you for contributing to this piece; it means more than we can write.
Savon runs the Performance & Video Production Club at TUJ. Meetings are on Mondays from 18:15-19:15 in Azabu 506. Email firstname.lastname@example.org for more details!
Keep an eye out every Monday, for a new installment of this six part series!