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 All volunteers must receive command approval, a thorough screening, a background check to ensure they are right for the job and complete 40 hours of training
 Restricted reporting allows a sexual assault victim to confidentially disclose the details of their assault to a SARC. They receive medical treatment assistance and counseling without triggering an investigation.
 Unrestricted reporting is for sexual assault victims who want an official investigation, in addition to medical treatment, referrals and counseling.
 
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 Losing Your Future to Sexual Assault
SARC office hosts victim advocate training

Posted 9/11/2012   Updated 9/11/2012 Email story   Print story

    


by Airman 1st Class Cierra Bullock
7th Bomb Wing Public Affairs


9/11/2012 - DYESS AIR FORCE BASE, Texas -- Working on the front lines in the war against sexual assault, victim advocates are the lifeblood of the Sexual Assault Prevention Program.

Victim advocates are military members or Department of Defense civilian volunteers who possess essential information resources and whose primary role is to serve the needs of sexual assault victims for as long as needed.

"At Dyess, all volunteers must receive command approval, a thorough screening, a background check to ensure they are right for the job and complete 40 hours of training before providing support to victims," said Florine King, 7th Bomb Wing Sexual Assault Response Coordinator.

The program is made up of a select group of qualified volunteers who commit to giving up their free time to help a victim in need.

"Each volunteer takes turns keeping the SARC on-call phone and is ready to go at a moment's notice," King said. "Once the SARC is notified of a reported sexual assault, a VA is immediately assigned with the victim's permission."

One of the most important qualities a VA must have is time management.

"It is crucial that VAs quickly respond to victims in a non-judgmental and supportive manner," King said. "In a crisis situation, VAs encourage and help victims get medical attention. They provide information about what to expect, provide emotional support, connect victims to other services and maintain the victim's confidentiality."

A victim advocates gives options, but allows victims to decide what course of action to take.

"The VA evaluates the victim, helps with safety plans and referrals, and reassures the victim that what happened was not their fault," King said.

Beyond the immediate crisis situation, VAs also provides support to victims who choose to use the justice system.

"VAs can accompany victims to investigative interviews and court, and provide information about the legal process," King said. "They continue to follow up with the victims to check on their well-being and answer questions until they are no longer needed."

If a sexual assault occurs, active-duty Airmen have two reporting options: restricted and unrestricted.

Restricted reporting allows a sexual assault victim to confidentially disclose the details of their assault to a SARC. They receive medical treatment assistance and counseling without triggering an investigation.

Unrestricted reporting is for sexual assault victims who want an official investigation, in addition to medical treatment, referrals and counseling.

"The Air Force has a zero-tolerance policy on sexual assault, but unfortunately it still happens," King said. "The program gives the volunteers and me a chance to work with these victims one-on-one and make sure they are taken care of."

Many times a VA has personally known someone affected by sexual assault, which has led them to fight against it.

"I had a situation occur in my life where a friend passed away due to sexual assault. It had a major impact on my life and now I want to help those who have been victimized by sexual assault," said Airman 1st Class Jacqueline Swinson, 7th Operations Group.

Being a VA requires hard work and dedication because a person's life is on the line.

"The volunteers for this program have made a commitment to dedicate their time to help out victims who have no one else to turn to in their time of need," King said. "The volunteers are compassionate, believe in a cause and want to make a difference in someone else's life."

For more information on becoming a victim's advocate, call the Dyess SARC at (325) 696-5499.



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