Sexual assault and abuse can happen anywhere, and at any time. April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month.
“This is an annual campaign to highlight public awareness about sexual assault and educate communities and individuals on how to prevent sexual violence,” said Cynthia Randall, Air Force Test Center Volunteer Victim advocate.
The DOD Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Program is available to provide advocacy and referrals to anyone who reports retaliation, reprisal, ostracism, or maltreatment resulting from an allegation of sexual assault. Investigative agencies are required to notify the installation Sexual Assault Response Coordinator within 48 hours of becoming aware of a victim’s request to make an alleged sexual assault-related retaliation report.
The U.S. Air Force resilience SAPR website defines a sexual assault and consent this way:
Sexual Assault-Intentional sexual contact characterized by the use of force, the threat of force or when a victim cannot or does not consent. Includes touching, fondling, grabbing, pinching, oral stimulation, penetration with an object or body part without consent or trying to do any of these acts.
Consent-Words or overt act indicating a freely given agreement to sexual conduct by a competent person. Lack of these words, physical resistance or submission resulting from use of force or threat of force does not imply consent.
According to Randall, a victim can report a sexual assault by two means:
* Active Duty personnel and their family members over 18 years old and Air Force civilians can report a sexual assault/rape to a SARC, victims advocate or chaplain who all have privileged communication.
* There is no investigation.
* Chain of Command is not notified.
* Active Duty personnel and their family members over 18 years old and Air Force civilians can report a sexual assault/rape to a SARC, victims advocate, a chaplain, the Office of Special Investigations, Security Forces or Chain of Command.
* There is an investigation.
* Chain of Command is notified.
With a variety of channels to for victims to be heard, there is often an unsung haven that goes unused. It’s the volunteer victim’s advocate.
They offer immediate and ongoing non-clinical support to victims of sexual assault by providing assistance, information, resources, and advocacy services. These services may include, but are not limited to, attending appointments, interviews, trials, and exams with the victim. VVA’s demonstrate their desire to serve and support others by providing 24/7 response and care to sexual assault victims while also educating the base populace. When VAAs are not providing response services to victims, they focus on the prevention of sexual assaults by providing education during commander’s functions and key audience briefings.
Randall’s day to day position here at the AFTC is Small Business Programs director but she has been a volunteer victim advocate for 14 months. VVA’s must complete an initial 40 hour training taught by SARC and SAPR. VVA’s must maintain 32 continuing education units of refresher training every two years IAW AFI90-6001.
“I can only speak from my point of view on why I became a VVA. After 25 years serving active duty and civil service, I felt a strong desire to support others and hopefully be a guiding light to those going through tough situations. I’m only here to help the victims, and the best part to not be part of the problem is to be part of the solution – the SAPR program does just that! One of my victims choose me because the SARC told her that I was very maternal but hip with the times involving technology. This victim wanted to communicate via text. For the first month, we texted about every other day, now we’re down to a couple a month. Emoji’s flow with flowers, inspirational quotes and such. The victim said my feedback always brightened her day and got her through a few tough days,” said Randall.
It goes without saying but sexual assault is inconsistent with our Air Force Core Values. AFTC leadership will help ensure response services are: Gender-inclusive, culturally competent, and recovery-oriented. Leadership will also ensure SAPR services are available 24/7 for all locations, including deployed locations. SAPR personnel will ensure victims are protected, treated with dignity and respect, and receive timely access to appropriate medical treatment and services. Finally, the Installation or host Wing Commander will provide functional oversight of local SAPR program, ensuring immediate response capability exists to support victims.
The Air Force Test Center Sexual Assault Response coordinator is Carolyn Graves.
For information about the SARC’s contact information at your location, see below:
Arnold AFB – 931-581-7494 AEDC 24/7 SARC Response Hotline
Edwards AFB – 661-277-SARC (7272)/Edwards 24 Hour Hotline 661-209-0115
Eglin AFB – 850-240-3219/850-882-SARC (7272)/ firstname.lastname@example.org
There are a number of helping agencies at each Air Force location to support victims of sexual assault. If you need assistance, contact the Department of Defense SafeHelp line at 1-877-995-5247 or visit www.safehelpline.org to locate the closest sexual assault response coordinator. For more information, visit https://www.resilience.af.mil/SAPR/.