By Brian Hagberg
50th Space Wing Public Affairs
Schriever Air Force Base recently earned the Air Force Space Command Sexual Assault Prevention and Response program of the year award for 2014.
The award encompasses not just the full-time office employees, but the volunteer victim advocates as well. The office has two full-time employees and between 15 and 20 volunteer victim advocates, according to Paula Krause, Schriever sexual assault response coordinator.
“Our primary function is to work with victims of sexual assault,” Krause said. “Cecilia (Smith) and I typically do more of the coordination (with care agencies), while our victim advocates work directly with the victims.”
The award was changed this year from falling under the A1 awards to a stand-alone award, said Krause. Now that the office has won the AFSPC-level award, they are competing to become the top SAPR office at the Air Force level.
“There was a lot of excitement when we found out (about the award),” said Devon Thomas, a volunteer victim advocate. “We work very hard.”
“I just kind of celebrated,” said 1st Lt. Ryan Corl, another volunteer victim advocate. “As soon as I got the email I walked over to my supervisor and said, ‘Yeah!’”
Krause said the SAPR program wouldn’t be able to be as effective as it is without its volunteers. They play major roles in coordinating annual events, such as the Color Run and dodgeball tournament SAPR sponsors every April for Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention month, and help man the SAPR information booths at base events throughout the year. Most importantly though, the victim advocates are there to provide one-on-one support to sexual assault victims.
Thomas said she became a victim advocate in order to provide positivity following something as devastating as sexual assault.
“I knew some people who had been through sexual assault before becoming an advocate,” Thomas said. “I’ve learned how to help some of the people cope better with what they’re going through. I’ve learned so much being a part of this (program), it’s amazing.”
Staff Sgt. Maria Lee, a victim advocate for nearly two years, said she wanted to be a voice for victims.
“I had some people in my life who had gone through sexual assault, and I wanted them to have somebody who could be a voice for them and give them the courage to speak out,” Lee said.
Some of the services SAPR offers include crisis intervention, providing information on available resources, both on and off base, and helping victims make informed decisions regarding restricted and unrestricted reporting.
Additionally, SAPR offers a variety of courses units can request. The courses, which can be customized to fit the unit’s population and demographics, cover topics such as alcohol use, date rape, helping the survivor, street smarts for women, disparity in social standards and male victims.
“I think the base is getting the word out that sexual assault is not just a female problem,” Smith said. “We’re proud to have male victim advocates join us and get this message out to the community.”
One of the things Krause said the SAPR office did last year to increase awareness was to put information on group bulletin boards. The post included a picture of the group’s victim advocate, their role within the SAPR program and some general information.
“It makes victim advocates more readily identifiable with the people in their squadron so they know, ‘Hey, I can go talk to my victim advocate,’ if they don’t feel comfortable coming to our office,” Krause said.
In addition, SAPR always has some kind of presence at major base functions, whether it’s an information booth, game or another event.
“Every time someone has an event of some caliber, our face is out there,” Smith said. “We get our message out in any capacity we can.”
Thomas said increased news coverage of sexual assault cases has made it easier for people to recognize signs of sexual assault and how to report it.
“It is becoming something that more people are talking about on a day-to-day basis and recognizing in the work place,” Thomas said. “I personally have noticed people cutting down on victim blaming and having a different insight into what victims go through.”
For more information, contact the SAPR office at 567-7634.