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NEWS | Feb. 21, 2018

SHARP hosts Resource Ride to prepare advocates

By Staff Sgt. Teresa J. Cleveland 633rd Air Base Wing Public Affairs

Twice a year, the Sexual Harassment and Assault Response Program at Joint Base Langley-Eustis takes sexual assault response coordinators and victim advocates within the U.S. Army units through an 80-hour training program to support survivors following an assault.

In addition to that training, new advocates and SARCs participate in a Resource Ride. The ride involves visiting locations in Newport News where they might escort a survivor after an assault.

“This helps Victim Advocates and SARCs understand the process of supporting a survivor of sexual assault,” said Kevin Parker, JBLE SHARP coordinator. “If you’re an advocate or a SARC but you’ve never had a case, this really helps you learn hands-on where you might go, who you might meet and what the survivor can expect to encounter throughout the process. 

The ride started with the first stop that a VA or SARC will likely escort a victim; the emergency room at Riverside Hospital. There, a survivor is medically treated for any injuries and, if permission is given, forensic evidence from the assault is collected.

“Just being able to see that room gives you a better sense of what they’re going to feel,” said U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Thomas Salvail, Bravo Company, 2nd Battalion, 210th Aviation Regiment, 128th Aviation Brigade instructor writer and victim advocate. “You can inform them a little better, so they can prepare themselves for what they’re going to encounter in that room.”

Immediately following the medical facility was a trip to the Newport News Police Department Special Victims Unit to meet with NNPD Sgt. Shawnalea Ross, SVU supervisor.

Ross walked VAs and SARCs through the interviews, charges and court process for a typical sexual assault case. Ross informed the visitors that their role is vital to the support system survivors need following an assault.

“Ten years ago or so, we didn’t do this coordination with advocates, it was almost unheard of for us to work as a team in this capacity,” said Ross. “The biggest element of the team approach that helps victims begin the healing process throughout a long investigation and trial process, are the advocates.”

Participants went back to the installation to visit the Criminal Investigation Division, McDonald Army Health Center’s Sexual Assault Medical Management Team, Staff Judge Advocate, Military Family Life Chaplain and finished at the Center for Sexual Assault Survivors in Newport News.

At each location, advocates walked through the procedures they might encounter when supporting a survivor of sexual assault. Advocates took notes, collected business cards and asked questions to ensure understanding of all aspects of the process following a sexual assault.

“We want it to be real for them and get them to comprehend as best as possible what a victim might go through so they can better understand how to provide support, and just be there for that person,” said Parker. “All of these organizations work together with a goal in mind of supporting the survivor, so the more the VAs and SARCs know, the more they can focus on support, rather than trying to understand the process in the moment with a survivor.”

For more information on becoming a victim advocate or SARC, contact Parker at (757) 501-7052.