Victims Advocate classes resume at Andersen
ANDERSEN AIR FORCE BASE, Guam -- The Sexual Assault Prevention and Response office activated 13 Airmen as new victim advocates for the base-wide program last week.
The Victims Advocate program is run by the Andersen SAPR office. It is the SAPR's mission to reinforce the Air Force's commitment to eliminating sexual assault through a comprehensive program that provides prevention and awareness education, said base officials. The office also ensures compassionate and effective response for survivors, cultivating a base-wide wingman culture that is founded on mutual respect and trust.
"We just trained and certified a great group of people for the program," said Staff Sgt. Traci Jordan-Reese, 36th Wing full-time victim advocate. "We're glad to get new people on board and hoping to bring in even more people in the future."
The training, which took place March 17-21, consisted of 40 hours of classroom work including in-depth discussions on topics which included: rape, sexual assault, reporting procedures, and roles and responsilities of a VA.
Members of the VA program dedicate their time to being a victim advocate 24/7. Part of the responsibilities include being on call periodically, as well as assisting a victim immediately should the need arise.
"People don't want to think of themselves as being the victim, but the volunteers never know when someone's going to confide in them and say that they've been sexually assaulted," said 1st Lt. Diana Wong, 36th Wing Sexual Response Coordinator. "The volunteers are always on standby, once they enter the program, because they support the command by ensuring victims always come first."
Most active duty service members, guardsmen, reservists on active duty status, or Department of Defense civilians may apply to become VAs. However, personnel in certain jobs or positions are disqualified from volunteering, including first sergeants, medical personnel, security forces, Air Force Office of Special Investigations special agents, and judge advocates.
Before being accepted into the program, all individuals are interviewed by the SARC, have a background check and receive command approval to ensure only the best candidates are selected.
"I have always had a desire to help people and as an advocate I think that I can help to empower those who have been victimized," said Tech. Sgt. Cheryl Turonis, one of the recently trained VAs. "I feel that I can provide emotional support and resources to those who may be unsure of what they need to do for recovery."
With Sexual Assault Prevention Month occurring in April, the SAPR office has plans to spread the word about sexual assault throughout the month to include during the Air-Force-wide SAPR Stand-Down Day which will take place here April 25. VAs will be used to help brief units throughout the wing, allowing small group discussions to occur.
Along with stand down day, a campaign known as Denim Day, a sexual violence prevention and education campaign that allows members to wear jeans for a day, will also be incorporated in the month's events.
For more information on how to become a VA or to continue as a VA from another base, contact the SAPR office at 366-7714.