NORFOLK, Va. (WVEC) -- The Navy is taking a stand against sexual assault among the ranks. It wasn't some boring power point presentation. But an interactive, theatrical performance, all designed to teach sailors how to help themselves, and their shipmates.
Department of Defense data shows that assaults on service members went from 2,800 in 2007 to 6,100 in 2014. The number of reported sexual assaults in 2015 was largely the same.
Captain Chuck Marks of U.S. Fleet Forces is confident programs like the one on display Wednesday at Naval Station Norfolk can help.
"We have two different types of training in the Navy," said Marks. "Training that generates skill sets, and then training that is looking to drive cultural change. So this kind of event is a culture change event."
Various dating and social interaction scenarios were played out for hundreds of sailors. The idea was to help them make better decisions, to understand consent and respect, and to know when intervention should take place.
The performers were members of a Long Beach, California social theater group called Pure Praxis, contracted by the Department of Defense and the Navy's Office of Sexual Assault and Prevention. Since 2015, the group has reached more than 37,000 military personnel.
That's why we love bringing the audience members up, because it makes it a more real-life scenario for them," said actor Ashley Quin.
Facilitator Benji Kaufman agreed. "The thing that makes us feel good is, we want to at least change one person's mind," he said.
Lead facilitator Nicole Snell said small acts can make a big difference.
"It can be something as simple as asking a question, making a joke, distracting somebody, offering someone, 'hey, I'm here for you if you need it.,'" she said. "Just that one small thing can mean the world to somebody and change their life."
Today's performance at Naval Station Norfolk was one of nine over three days at various Hampton Roads Navy facilities.
Ironically, it came one day before a troubling Navy sexual assault case heads to court.
According to the "Navy Times", an unnamed chief petty officer was assigned to the U-S-S Theodore Roosevelt last year, when he allegedly raped a female sailor in an office on the ship.
At the time, that carrier was based out of Hampton Roads. Tomorrow, he's set to have an Article 32 hearing in Norfolk. That is the military equivalent of a grand jury. The chief is now assigned to the U-S-S George Washington, which is in Hampton Roads for maintenance.