The Secretary of Defense has prioritized eliminating sexual assault in the armed forces and taking care of victims. Across the Defense Department, its sexual assault response coordinators and members of military communities ensure the secretary’s goals are met.
Last week, the department recognized the best of those individuals as recipients of the Liz Blanc Exceptional SARC of the Year Award and the Promoting Excellence in Prevention Award.
The annual awards ceremony, held May 17 at the Mark Center in Alexandria, Virginia, emphasized the importance of sexual assault prevention and response across the department, and also recognized the dedicated individuals who provide critical victim care and support as well as those working toward a prevention-focused community.
Since 2009, the department has annually recognized one SARC from each military service and within the National Guard for the Liz Blanc Exceptional SARC of the Year Award. The award recognizes innovative achievements contributing to unique and exceptional victim response within the military community.
Dr. Nathan Galbreath, the acting director for DOD’s Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office, highlighted the importance of the award and echoed his appreciation for SARCs who take on these challenging roles.
“Having the opportunity to recognize these silent warriors for their work in supporting service members is a true honor,” Galbreath said. “Fostering a support system that meets the needs of all victims is challenging. It takes constant attention, hard work and focus. Everyone who will receive this award is an example of that hard work; they know the true meaning of taking care of our own.”
The role of the SARC is important, Galbreath said, because SARCs serve as the single point of contact for integrating and institutionalizing sexual assault victim care in the field, from the initial report through case conclusion. The SARC has the profound role of ensuring a
support system is in place for all victims.
In order to certify that SARCs are trained and armed with the tools they need to provide comprehensive victim care and support, SARCs from across the services receive training and certification in victim-centered care through the DOD Sexual Assault Advocate Certification Program.
Preventing a sexual assault from occurring in the first place is also a department priority. Towards this, the department has increased its focus and effort on preventing sexual assault through ongoing initiatives including releasing the Prevention Plan of Action, publishing an integrated violence-prevention policy and establishing a prevention community of practice which features the first-ever prevention workforce.
Recipients of this year’s awards represent the thousands of service members and civilians dedicated to sexual assault prevention and response across the department, said Dr. Andra Tharp, the senior prevention advisor for the department’s Office of Force Resiliency and SAPRO.
“The efforts made by this year’s recipients, support the work being done by the department to reduce and stop sexual assault in the military community,” said Tharp. “Their work is critical to creating and sustaining an environment of dignity, respect, inclusiveness, and connectedness to advance readiness and warfighting capability.”
Among the six award recipients from across the services, and representing the Air Force, was DM’s U.S. Air Force Capt. Vikki Flores of the 355th Wing, named as a 2022 Liz Blanc Exceptional SARC of the Year Award winner.