LIHUE — When Matthew DeGuzman explained how he would handle someone being bullied in public, he didn’t think he would be called on stage to demonstrate it.
“I hope I did it OK,” he said.
DeGuzman was one of about 20 sailors from Pacific Missile Range Facility who attended a hands-on performance by a California social theater group called Pure Praxis about sexual assault and the social issues that could result from reporting such an attack.
The group uses workshops to train and empower service members at military bases worldwide. The actors are trained victim advocates.
Thursday’s performance at Kauai Community College Performing Arts Center set the scene of a woman sailor, Ashley, who was sexually assaulted by a fellow shipmate, Brad. She reported the attack, and Brad was shipped to another base.
But her decision to report the incident had negative consequences. Her friends blame her for the attack, ostracize and bully her. Some ignore the situation completely.
During the skit, scenes were paused and explained by facilitators, Nicole Snell and Benji Kauffman, who shed light on what could potentially happen to someone who reports being assaulted.
For example, the performers acted out different scenarios — like victim blaming — and asked the audience to yell “Stop” when something was said that made them uncomfortable.
In another scene, two of the characters — Willie and Briza — are bullying Ashley in a public place, and the audience is asked how they would handle the situation if they saw it go down.
That’s when DeGuzman, who has been stationed at PMRF for almost two years, got called on stage. He said he would report it up the chain of command.
The Pure Praxis performance was offered through the Navy Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Program, which focuses on preventing and responding to sexual assault within the Navy.
The Navy Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Program Office partnered with Pure Praxis about two years ago.
“We got a report about female military people saying they’ve been retaliated against,” said Jill Loftus, director of SAPR. “We redid the script to talk about retaliation. So we’ve been able to flex with the issues of the day.”
The performance is helpful because intervening is easier said then done, Loftus added.
“Our sailors understand the duty they have to intervene and stop toxic behavior, but I think it’s a little bit harder to practice it,” she said. “This gives them that muscle memory.”
Loftus hopes the play will prepare sailors to act if they witness something in real life.
“We want them to recognize that when they have a gut feeling that something isn’t right, it probably isn’t right,” she said.
In the two years he’s been with Pure Praxis, Kauffman has traveled to bases in South Korea, Japan, Italy and Guantanamo Bay.
But he never gets tired of it.
“You never know what’s going to happen,” he said. “You just have to roll with it.”
SAPR is a required program, and attending the Pure Praxis performance gives sailors credit.
DeGuzman said he appreciated the hands-on experience.
“It’s good to be interactive,” he said. “It’s much better than a PowerPoint.”