SAPR of­fice seeks new vic­tim ad­vo­cates

The Enquire-Gazette - - Front Page - By AIR­MAN 1ST CLASS MICHAEL S. MUR­PHY 11th Wing Pub­lic Af­fairs

The De­part­ment of De­fense re­leased an an­nual re­port on sex­ual as­sault May 1. The re­port showed that dur­ing fis­cal year 2017, a 9.7 per­cent in­crease of vic­tims or sub­jects re­ported a sex­ual as­sault, com­pared to 2016.

Ac­cord­ing to the DoD story an­nounc­ing the re­lease, the in­crease in re­ports comes de­spite in­di­ca­tions that ac­tual as­saults are ac­tu­ally down in the last few years, cit­ing the most re­cent preva­lence fig­ures gath­ered in 2016. That shows that the 9.7 per­cent in­crease can likely be at­trib­uted to more ser­vice mem­bers “mak­ing the coura­geous de­ci­sion to re­port their ex­pe­ri­ences and to re­ceive restora­tive care,” ac­cord­ing to Eliz­a­beth P. Van Win­kle, the ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of DoD’s Of­fice of Force Re­siliency, in a Pen­tagon me­dia brief­ing on the day of the re­lease.

When those in­di­vid­u­als de­cide to file a re­port — whether re­stricted or un­re­stricted — there must be a net­work of peo­ple ready to sup­port them. That net­work be­gins with the lo­cal Sex­ual As­sault Pre­ven­tion and Re­sponse of­fice and its cadre of vol­un­teer vic­tim ad­vo­cates. Vic­tim ad­vo­cates are one of the few ser­vice mem­bers who can of­fi­cially re­ceive a re­stricted re­port, which opens av­enues of sup­port but does not ini­ti­ate an in­ves­ti­ga­tion. VAs also help with out­reaches, classes and main­tain­ing the 24/7 hour hot­line.

Right now, the JBA SAPR of- fice needs more.

Staff Sgt. Steven Swei, JBA vic­tim ad­vo­cate and 1st Air­lift Squadron flight at­ten­dant, says that his role model be­fore him piqued his in­ter­est in be­com­ing a VA.

“In the be­gin­ning, it was my su­per­vi­sor,” Swei said. “At that time, my su­per­vi­sor was a vic­tim’s ad­vo­cate. I knew what the Sex­ual As­sault Re­sponse Coor- di­na­tor was, but I didn’t know about the vic­tim ad­vo­cates. He spoke to me about the pro­gram and said that I would be help­ful be­cause he knew I liked to help peo­ple.”

Swei was at his first base, Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash­ing­ton, when he be­came a VA. Swei re­ceived his DoD cer­tifi­cate af­ter com­plet­ing a 40 hour, week-long train­ing course and a se­cu­rity clear­ance check. Swei was taught the pro­ce­dures on Sex­ual As­sault Foren­sic Exam kits, vic­ti­mol­ogy, and the cul­ture of sex­ual as­sault, among other is­sues.

As a VA, Swei op­er­ates within Mil­i­tary Rules of Ev­i­dence 514, which al­lows him to keep in­for­ma­tion con­fi­den­tial, as long as it doesn’t in­volve hurt­ing them­selves or oth­ers.

Swei said that vol­un­teer­ing for this po­si­tion should solely be mo­ti­vated by a de­sire to help oth­ers. He said the SAPR team is look­ing for self-mo­ti­vated Air­men who will im­prove upon the team’s ef­forts to en­gage with the com­mu­nity.

“The goal is to as­sist the in­stal­la­tion SAPR of­fice sup­port­ing the pro­gram,” said Kari Mer­ski, JBA SARC.

To ap­ply to be a VA, one year of re­tain­abil­ity is re­quired. Those with a back­ground of do­mes­tic vi­o­lence, child abuse or sex­ual as­sault will not be con­sid­ered for a VA po­si­tion.

Those in­ter­ested must be E-4, O-2 or GS-7 and above to ap­ply.

If you are in­ter­ested in ap­ply­ing to be­come a VA, con­tact Maria Lee or Kari Mer­ski at 301-981-3449, or 301-981-1443. To learn more about re­port­ing sex­ual as­sault and vic­tim as­sis­tance, go to the DoD SAPR web­site at in­dex.php/vic­tim-as­sis­tance.

Mem­bers of the base Sex­ual As­sault Pre­ven­tion and Re­sponse of­fice poses with An­gela Rose, cen­ter, guest speaker and founder of “Pro­mot­ing Aware­ness Vic­tim Em­pow­er­ment,” on Joint Base An­drews on Oct. 23. Rose came to JBA to raise aware­ness on sex­ual as­sault in mil­i­tary en­vi­ron­ments.

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