The Department of Defense has a zero tolerance policy on sexual assault. Although this policy is in place, cases of sexual assault and harassment still occur and, in response, procedures and resources are put in place for victims. One resource available through the Office of Sexual Assault Prevention and Response is a volunteer victim advocate.

VVAs are highly trained, nationally certified individuals who are committed to assisting victims of sexual trauma following a report, providing resources and support for as long as needed. Currently, 11 Team Tyndall Airmen hold this title.

“AVVs are the heart and soul of our program, said Christine McGill, 325th Fighter Wing Sexual Assault Response Coordinator. “VVAs work directly with survivors to ensure their needs are met at a time that is convenient for them. There is absolutely no way that the full-time SARC or SAPR VA can handle the workload that volunteer victim advocates take on.

The SAPR Office, SARC and VVAs work with several aid agencies on Tyndall including Mental Health, Equal Opportunity, Chaplain Corps and more. Additionally, the SAPR office works with local emergency rooms and available trauma centers to assist the base with victims.

“This collaboration creates relationships where we trust each other and can pass that informational trust to our victims,” McGill said. “Instead of just providing a name and phone number…we do a warm transfer, which means we go to the agency and physically introduce the member to the other aid agency. Even better, we can also follow up to make sure the helping agency was meeting that victim’s needs. »

The SAPR office and the VVAs maintain confidentiality within the program and therefore do not report information revealed to them without the consent of the survivor. The role of SAPR is to provide support and resources to the survivor rather than asking questions about or influencing the incident.

“I think everyone should be careful is not to push casualties to report,” said Lead Airman Jordyn Jones, a weapons simulation technician with the 337th Air Control Squadron and VVA. “I think a lot of people want to bring [perpetrators] to justice, but you must consider the feelings of the victim.

In addition to an application process through SARC, VVAs undergo 40 hours of initial training before being recommended for certification. ALVs must complete 32 hours of continuing education over the next two years in order to reapply for certification.

“I wanted [be a VVA] because it mostly came down to that human nature; I just want to help people, ”said the master sergeant. Paul Lambert, 325th Ordnance Squadron Inspection Team Leader and VVA. “Especially in such situations where you don’t know what to say, being knowledgeable (and educated) on how to approach the conversation properly, the [easier] it is to help others.

VVAs spread education and awareness by educating service members on topics such as consent and misconceptions about alcohol.

Some victim advocates are also trauma survivors and want to help others navigate whatever the future holds for that particular person.

“I wanted to become a victims’ rights advocate because I’m a survivor myself,” Tech said. sergeant. Kimber Bergstrom, 325th Weapons Systems Evaluation Program Production Superintendent MUNS and VVA. “I didn’t want to report it and I didn’t report it for 15 years because I wasn’t ready to. I went through it all on my own and it was awful and it was dark, and I never want anyone to have the most horrible experience of their life on their own.

VVAs are an optional resource for any survivor filing a restricted or unrestricted report. A VVA listens, advocates for resources, and can accompany the survivor to any meeting, including with leadership, investigations, and medical care as requested by the survivor. The VVA cannot talk about legalities or investigations, but a VVA is there to support you through the process.

McGill does its best to match survivors with advocates who match the personality of the survivor and the needs of those who choose to use this resource.

“Please come talk to me,” McGill said. “If I can’t help you in my area, I will know [which] resource to provide and I will be with you there, every step of the way.

Tyndall’s SAPR office is located in the building. 662, on the second floor.

For more information, contact Tyndall’s SAPR office at (850) 283-3373 or Tyndall’s SAPR hotline at (850) 625-1231. Additionally, the Department of Defense Helpline is a 24/7 resource at (877) 995-5247.