Victim advocates help in time of need

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LUKE AIR FORCE BASE, AZ — Being a victim or survivor of a sexual assault can be a traumatic experience, but there are resources available to help at the Sexual Assault Prevention and Response office. One of the most valuable resources is the victim advocate.

“A victim’s advocate is basically a confidant for the survivor and support system through their journey of recovery,” said Tech. Sgt. Brittany Doran, 607th Air Control Squadron NCO in charge of battle management instructor training and a victim’s advocate. “Being there for the recovery process entails being present for medical exams, Air Force Office of Special Investigations interviews, and court proceedings. Anytime a victim needs to talk, he or she can call us for help.”

Victim advocates also help the SAPR office with annual training, commander’s calls, and First Term Airmen Center briefings. To become a victim advocate, one must fulfill several requirements.

“The training for becoming a victim advocate is 40 hours of classroom time, which is done through the SAPR office,” Doran said. “Once this training is complete those interested must submit an application to the Department of Defense Sexual Assault advocacy certification program. Once accepted there, you become a nationally certified victim advocate. One must complete 32 hours of training annually to maintain certification.”

It takes a specific kind of person to become a victim advocate.

“When I was an airman first class I had never heard of the SAPR office,” Doran said. “One of my co-workers was a victim advocate at the time and thought I would be good for the job. The initial 40 hours of training opened my eyes to a world I never knew existed in the military. From there, I wanted to be there for survivors and help them through the dark time they endure.”

For many victims, the fear of coming forward prevents them from reporting the crime, but knowing victim advocates have full confidentiality provides a safe environment for victims.

“Victim advocates are very critical to SAPR,” said Senior Airman Brittany Thompson, 56th Communications Squadron communications focal point journeyman and victim advocate. “I have confidentiality with the victim and without that, there may not be a true response.”

Being a victim advocate can be a difficult role, especially when emotions are high.

“The most challenging thing about being a victim advocate is maintaining emotional bearing throughout,” Doran said. “Having a victim or survivor tell you the story while in tears and what they went through, sometimes you just want to cry with the victim. Also, holding that emotional bearing through court proceedings or through questioning can be harsh. You want to be there to protect them, but you have to wait for the right time to let your emotions out.”

Victim advocates have responsibilities to both the survivors and the SAPR office.

“The SAPR office calls upon victim advocates often,” Thompson said. “I’ve gone out with the SAPR office to Arizona State University to speak with cadets, and to the Veterans Affairs hospital to do some briefings because I’m one of the trainers.”

Victim advocates help the SAPR office, but their priority is to help the survivors of sexual assaults, Thompson said.

“Victim advocates are volunteers,” she said. “We’re not forced to do this, we stepped up to do it. We have a heart for people, especially the victims, to try to help them through the situation and come out on top.”