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Annie Rex and George Zerante, actors with Catharsis Productions, perform sexual assault training called Sex Signals for Marines at the base theater aboard Camp Pendleton, Calif., Aug. 15. Marines are encouraged to hold up stop signs when they feel a scene displays sexual assault as well as interact with the performers during the show.

Photo by Lance Cpl. Scott Reel

Marine Corps adopts new sexual assault prevention training

27 Aug 2013 | Lance Cpl. Scott Reel

More than 300 Camp Pendleton Marines piled into the base theater Aug. 15 for a different type of sexual assault prevention training called Sex Signals.

Catharsis Productions and the Marine Corps are partnering to increase awareness and take ownership of the issue of sexual assault.

Two performers, Annie Rix and George Zerante, performed life-like scenarios while incorporating the audience to make the training a tangible, memorable experience.

Rix said performers typically have backgrounds in acting and try out for the positions. Once accepted, they’re trained and perform on a demand basis. Rix is scheduled to perform around 26 times this month for military and college audiences.

Under every chair was a stop sign that Marines were encouraged to hold in the air when they felt was considered sexual assault. Marines were asked to give examples of stereotypes, pick-up lines and scenarios for the performers to act out.

“It’s more active, the role playing, improvisation and asking the audience for scenarios and real-life stuff that happens,” said Cpl. Crystal Hopkins, heavy equipment mechanic with 9th Communication Battalion.

Lance Cpl. Cody Ferguson, radar technician, said typical sexual assault prevention training involves ‘a bunch of slides and some video.’

“I think the format is a good idea,” Ferguson said. “They get people interacting and they can think for themselves that way and actually stay awake and participate.”

Marines weren’t quiet during the performance; they offered opinions and examples, eager to raise their stop signs when the opportunity presented itself. Rix and Zerante held nothing back, making every scenario very realistic and relatable.

A 2012 fiscal year report for I MEF assault incidents documented 85 victims with 79 of them ranked E-1 through E-5. While any number over zero is unacceptable for I MEF, Ferguson offers a positive light to the numbers.
“It’s going to be a long time to stop them, but it is really good that they’re informing people and victims are coming forward now,” Ferguson said. “You can’t really fix a problem until you realize you have it. We look at these numbers increasing as bad, but really it’s good that people are getting help, finally. I think that’s one very big positive that’s come out of these trainings.”

The Sex Signals performance didn’t stop at teaching Marines to identify the grey areas of sexual assault; their main point was preventative action. The perpetrators have to be held accountable, and it’s everyone’s responsibility to hold up a stop sign to a scenario even hinting at sexual assault.