Meet your Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Team

Victim Advocates assigned to the 354th Fighter Wing pose for a group photo June 25, 2015, at Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska. The Eielson Sexual Assault Prevention and Response office is supported by 17 victim advocates across the base. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Kirsten Wicker/Released)

Victim Advocates assigned to the 354th Fighter Wing pose for a group photo June 25, 2015, at Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska. The Eielson Sexual Assault Prevention and Response office is supported by 17 victim advocates across the base. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Kirsten Wicker/Released)

EIELSON AIR FORCE BASE, Alaska -- The Eielson Sexual Assault Prevention and Response office is supported by 17 victim advocates across the base. 

After someone experiences a sexual assault they don't always know what to do. If a survivor tells a friend or a family member, many loved ones aren't sure how they can help the survivor. This is where the victim advocates (VA) can help. 

What do VAs do?

VAs walk survivors of sexual assault through their options. If survivors simply want to heal and move on, that's how the VA helps.

If the survivor wants to heal and also see the perpetrator brought to justice, VAs help the survivor navigate through processes and bureaucracy. As victim advocates, we can help guide survivors through all of the resources and options available.

If someone does not want VA support, they don't have to have a VA. It's all about survivor care.

As VAs, we frequently listen to the most traumatic thing that's ever happened to most people. 

VAs sit with people during this period and listen to what they want. Sometimes victims or survivors of sexual assault don't know what they want.

Whatever a survivor needs, whatever course of action they want to take, we can help. The VAs job is to support and to coordinate services. If someone has been sexually assaulted, they're probably not thinking about all the services that might be available to them. 

It's important to our advocates to fulfill this role, because in the past many people didn't have someone they could trust or people simply didn't believe them. Survivors can sometimes feel lost and isolated. For many of our advocates, they want to make sure the survivor has at least one person who believes them and supports them.  Many of our Air Force colleagues are stepping up to the plate and there is a cultural shift taking place.

We are beginning to see a pattern of people believing survivors and less victim blaming. While many of our Airmen have good intentions, sometimes people just aren't sure how to respond. 

That's why our advocates do this work. It is difficult to hear about a sexual assault, but it's also very rewarding to our advocates to be a reliable and trustworthy source of support for the survivor. 

Despite how difficult it may be at times, the altruistic sense of helping someone is what really brings them to the table. 

I hope over this series you enjoy hearing the stories of why our VAs have volunteered to do this kind of work and that you will gain a new perspective of the SAPR program.

I also hope you find some compassion and understanding deep within yourself as you come to learn their personal reasons for wanting to become victim advocates.