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Becoming a Sexual Assault Victim Advocate

JOINT BASE ANDREWS, Md. -- Have you ever had a friend, loved one, or even just an associate who was involved in a sexual assault, and you felt helpless? Have you had the desire to help them or support them, but didn't know how? If so, you may be a wonderful candidate to become a Sexual Assault Victim Advocate.

When I first entered the military, I was given brief-after-brief about sexual assault prevention, and I didn't understand why. According to the Department of Defense Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office, there were approximately 19,000 sexual assaults in 2011; out of those 19,000, it is estimated only 13.5 percent of the survivors reported the assault.

From the time I heard about the different issues we have with sexual assault in the military, I wanted to help; however, I didn't know where to begin.

The flight commander at my previous base was the Alternate Sexual Assault Response Coordinator, because she was an officer, I assumed only officers could help the Sexual Assault Prevention and Response program. I knew nothing at all about becoming a part of the SAPR program until I got to Joint Base Andrews.

I was going through my emails and I noticed an email from my first sergeant about becoming a Sexual Assault Victim Advocate. I wanted to delete the email but I decided to read it instead. I realized the Victim Advocate program is for officer or enlisted and focuses in supporting survivors and eradicating support for tolerance of sexual assault.

The application process to become a victim advocate was very straightforward for me; request application, fill it out and request approval from my supervisor and commander. Once my application was completed, I was interviewed for the position.

Now that I have applied and been vetted, I had to complete 40 hours of training. It was important that I paid attention and really understood what I was being trained on and what being a victim advocate was really about. The job is extremely sensitive.

There are still many people in the military who have been victims of sexual assault, but because they don't feel the support of others, they keep it to themselves. Because of my training, I am now equipped to support survivors and let them know they are not alone in this.

Though sometimes it is demanding, actually being able to support a survivor makes it all worth it. I encourage everyone that would like to volunteer for a duty that stands for eradicating the stigma of sexual assaults, and support the victims to look into becoming a victim advocate. The Air Force is big and we can use all the support we can get.

For more information, contact the Joint Base Andrews SAPR program at 301-981-1442.