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Victim advocates strive to make a difference for Andersen Airmen

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Arielle Vasquez
  • 36th Wing Public Affairs

Andersen Air Force Base is currently home to 20 victim advocates who dedicate their time to ensure no sexual assault victim has to endure the recovery process alone.

The Victim Advocate program, managed by the Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office, ensures victim advocates provide effective and compassionate response for survivors, while cultivating a base-wide wingman culture that is founded on mutual respect and trust. 

“Sexual assault is a traumatic experience, which is why it's so important for victim advocates to provide additional support,” said Capt. Tina Frierson, 36th Wing sexual assault response coordinator. “Our goal is to provide educational and emotional support for those who come in to file a report with our office, whether it is an unrestricted or restricted report. We let them know all the resources we have on base as well as off base.”

Volunteers go through an extensive selection and certification process in order to provide the best service to victims. Steps taken to become a victim advocate include passing a background check, completing an interview process, receiving command approval and attending the initial 40 hours of training with the SARC office. The training, which is done quarterly, consists of discussions on topics, which include sexual assault, reporting procedures and responsibilities of a VA. 

Victim advocates dedicate their time to this role 24/7. Some of their responsibilities include working on a rotating schedule and being on call to immediately respond to a victim should the need arise.

“I wanted to become a VA for personal reasons,” said Master Sgt. Dan De Leon, 36th Civil Engineer Squadron NCO in charge of planning, who is also a part-time victim advocate. “I have family members who are victims of sexual assault, and for me I wanted to bridge that gap and become more knowledgeable to help those affected. If there’s one thing in the Air Force that we can’t get wrong, it is having the VA program in place to provide victims with the proper care they deserve.”

With Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month occurring in April, the SAPR office has events planned to spread awareness to include a rally, informational fair, color run and a Zumbathon. 

“We all play a part to help eradicate sexual assault and are all a part of the solution,” Frierson said. “We need to make sure we are creating a culture of dignity and respect. When we see things going wrong, we need to address those issues no matter how difficult it may be.”

Victim advocates are a crucial part to the SAPR office. They ensure that the victim continues to receive the necessary care and support until the victim says so, or until the SARC determines that support is no longer needed. 

“A VA definitely has to be committed,” De Leon said. “This is something that is so serious that you have to drop whatever you are doing to be there to make sure the victims are taken care of. For anyone who is curious about the program, I encourage them to attend our monthly meetings to learn more about it.”

For information on how to become a VA, or continue as a VA from another base, contact the SAPR office at 366-7715. 

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