Victim Advocates: front-line against sexual assault

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. --

Sexual Assault Response Coordinators, and Victim Advocates are available at major DoD installations to assist victims and survivors of sexual assault. At Vandenberg, the Victim Advocates are volunteers from different units and serve as the front-line of defense for prevention and response.

The Victim Advocate program is comprised of trained and qualified Airmen and civilians who volunteer their time as on-call resources for counsel and information regarding sexual assault.  

“The program is meant to assist victims of sexual assault,” said Master Sgt. Brittany Spoutz, 30th Force Support Squadron family readiness NCOIC. “It is unique because most of the helping agencies that we have on base are very formal in their processes, but the Victim Advocacy program is made up of peers. We have people who have different jobs all over base but we all share the same passion of wanting to help people going through a struggle.”

With Victim Advocates embedded in some of the hard to reach, secure places on base, they can be an invaluable asset for disseminating information and providing support where needed.

“The Victim Advocates have a lot of different functions, and are our eyes and ears in the hard to reach places on base,” said Emily Dreiling, 30th Space Wing sexual assault response coordinator. “We have 22 people throughout the base in different units. Someone is always available to provide counseling or simply to talk. All the advocates are certified by the same credentialing body that I am, the Department of Defense, and they can do all the same functions that the SARC can. They work with people throughout the base and we have them assigned to victims. They are not mandatory reporters so they can’t be called as a witness if anything were to go to court.”

Even though their help is not needed daily, Victim Advocates can log thousands of hours of on-call time.

“If anyone has the slightest interest in becoming a Victim Advocate I would say go for it,” said Spoutz. “It is very much needed and once you have the training you can be a victim advocate at any base for the rest of your career. Even if you don’t have a victim assigned to you, it is a very supportive group of people to be a part of.”

Anyone can volunteer to be part of the Victim Advocate program, although there is a screening process and a few restrictions.

“GS-7 employees or above can be Victim Advocates and E-4 and above on the enlisted side, as well as all officers,” said Dreiling. “We are really proud of the Victim Advocates that we do have, but knowing how big this base is, and how many units we have, there is a significant need for more people. The curriculum is comprised of 40 hours of initial training with follow up training every two years. This program is important at a DoD level but it’s even more important at a base level, because everyone can make a difference.”

 

For more information on how to become a Victim Advocate, call 606-7272