Advocates help victims recover
Tony Klucking, Capt. Marizel Escalante, Berlinda Vaughn, Janice Barnes, Capt. Kimberly Gay, Tyronice McDonald and LaNesa Howard are seven of the 25 victim advocates available at Maxwell-Gunter.(Air Force photo/Kelly Deichert)
by Kelly Deichert
Air University Public Affairs
4/22/2011 - MAXWELL AIR FORCE BASE, Ala. -- When sexual assault occurs, advocates are on hand to lead victims through the legal and emotional maze and help them transform into survivors.
"Victim advocates provide services for immediate and ongoing intervention and support to victims of sexual assault, and this is strictly a voluntary service," said LaNesa Howard, the Maxwell-Gunter sexual assault response coordinator. "VAs ensure availability of 24-hour confidential victim services either through personal or telephone contact."
Victim advocates must be active-duty personnel, active Reserve or Guard personnel or Department of Defense civilian employees. Applicants complete a background check, meet with the SARC and undergo a 40-hour training program.
"I'm looking for people with a caring heart and commitment to help fellow Air Force members," Ms. Howard said. "Advocates must be able to provide nonjudgmental support and work well in stressful situations."
Participants will be required to be on call and must have a valid driver's license. "They respond to crisis calls and assist individuals in developing safety plans," Ms. Howard said. "They also explain options regarding reporting avenues and support services, including community, legal and medical resources."
Advocates may be asked to accompany individuals to medical facilities and through investigation interviews.
VAs are as diverse as the people they serve. They vary by age, race and rank, ranging from E-3 to O-4. Both men and women can volunteer.
"Serving as a victim advocate is a rewarding experience for me because it allows people from all walks to come together and make the decision to help other people," said Staff Sgt. Krista Crout, a victim advocate and a unit deployment manager for the Electronic Systems Center at Gunter.
Sergeant Crout has been an advocate since 2007 and served with a SARC at Manas Air Base in Kyrgyzstan during her deployment in 2008.
"I want the public to know that the victim advocate program is there for them," she said. "It is a program to help in the transition from victim to survivor, whether the crime occurred two hours or 20 years ago."
For others, being a victim advocate is part of being a good wingman.
"(Being a victim advocate) is a part of who I am as a retired Airman who holds the Air Force core values and Airman's Creed near and dear," said Dr. Tony Klucking, an assistant professor in the department of international security studies at the Squadron Officer College. "Air Force core values call on us to place service to others before self. The Airman's Creed speaks to honor, valor, justice and the defense of our country."
Dr. Klucking worked with Col. Debra Gray, the first sexual assault response coordinator for the Air Force. He was on the team she assembled to develop and implement the sexual assault prevention and response program across the Air Force. He has been a victim advocate at Maxwell-Gunter since September.
For him, the SAPR program is a key element to improve the quality of life for Airmen.
"While I no longer serve in uniform, I can still serve and use my years on active duty to help this generation of leaders make the Air Force even better."
Though they may not be official victim advocates, Dr. Klucking believes all Air Force personnel have the responsibility to assist victims of assault.
"We should all be victim advocates, at least in spirit, since there is no act, legal or illegal, that is punishable by being sexually assaulted," Mr. Klucking said. "Despite this, society tends to blame the victim for the perpetrator's criminal actions in cases of sexual assault. It is never the victim's fault. Never."
For more information, contact Ms. Howard at 953-7116/4416 or visit the Department of Defense website at www.sapr.mil.