by Senior Airman Elizabeth Baker
86th Airlift Wing Public Affairs
The 86th Airlift Wing Sexual Assault Prevention and Response office graduated 19 volunteer victim advocates after a weeklong training Oct. 4.
The SAPR Volunteer Victim Advocate Program trains active duty and DOD civilians to provide 24-7 advocacy and response for victims of sexual assault. They provide initial response at the emergency room, continue case management, and provide resources and referrals for the victim. VVAs are a victim’s go-to resource to help them through the process of reporting a sexual assault, and answering all questions along the way.
“The position is not to be taken lightly,” said Kelly Dominguez, 86th AW SAPR coordinator. “There is a stringent application process, including commander’s approval, an interview with the SAPR office, and a background check.”
The SAPR office is looking for the cream of the crop, and, as Master Sgt. Melody Bell said, the job is challenging. Bell is an 86th Aerospace Medicine Squadron bioenvironmental engineering craftsman, and a volunteer victim advocate.
“It can be tough, like getting up at one in the morning to respond to a call,” Bell said, “but being there for somebody and then having them come back later and say ‘You really did help me,’ that’s it; that’s the gasoline that makes me do this.”
Bell has been a victim advocate at Ramstein for seven years. She said that she receives a special kind of fulfillment from volunteering as a VVA that she doesn’t receive anywhere else, because she helps people when they need it the most.
“It’s so rewarding,” Bell said. “Working as a VVA was the catalyst for getting a masters in social work. I love it. It has changed my life 180 degrees.”
The volunteer victim advocate position is open to most active duty E-4 and above, and DOD civilians GS-7 and above. Mandatory reporters such as 1st sergeants and medical personnel with direct patient care are not eligible. Currently there are 34 VVAs on Ramstein.
Bell believes that empathy is one of the most important factors it takes to be selected as a VVA. An advocate may be the first person a victim talks to about their situation, and they are trained to support the victim through their entire process.
“If you have empathy, you’re gonna be a great VVA,” Bell said.
The 86th SAPR office conducts initial VVA training twice a year, and the next will be in the spring. Graduates receive a nationally accredited certification. VVAs then attend monthly trainings, 1-2 hours each, to maintain their certifications. As long as VVAs maintain them, certifications last for two years and transfer to deployments and future duty stations.
For more information on the 86th SAPR VVA program, contact Kelly Dominguez at DSN 314-480-7272, or commercial 06371-47-7272.
Ramstein SAPR office website: https://www.ramstein.af.mil/Contact/SAPR/
The DOD SAPR website: https://www.sapr.mil/