[ Triad Online Home ]                                                                                      February 23, 2007

Sexual Assault Prevention, Response training held here

By Rob Schuette, Triad Staff

      New and current military unit victim advocates (UVAs) learned the latest about military and civilian information and support services during a week-long training session at Fort McCoy. 

      UVAs or Sexual Assault Response coordinators (SARC) representing the active-component Army, Army Reserve and National Guard, Air National Guard and Navy attended the UVA Training and SARC Training. Barbara Mashak, the Fort McCoy Army Community Service (ACS) SARC, said the UVAs must attend 40 hours of training annually. The training covers prevention, response and recovery for victims of sexual assault/abuse.

Photo: Carin White of Brighter Tomorrows tells attendees at SAPRP training about the groundwork needed for healthy relationships. (Photo by Rob Schuette)
Carin White of Brighter Tomorrows tells attendees at SAPRP training about the groundwork needed for healthy relationships. (Photo by Rob Schuette)

      "Prevention is accomplished through education awareness and promotion of healthy living environments," Mashak said. "Response means a sensitive and speedy response through the creation and support of advocates and the SARC. Recovery covers the systemic and individual recovery from sexual assault."

      "As the front line point of contact, UVAs are key and essential to the success of victim recovery and to the mission goals of the Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Program (SAPRP)."

      The training covered levels for the initial UVA certification, refresher UVA information and SARC-level training. Large group presentations, as well as small group breakouts, were held to present information and to provide role-playing exercises, Mashak said.

      Jane Lux, SAPRP coordinator from the National Guard Bureau in Arlington, Va., said the training enables SARCs and UVAs to respond appropriately and sensitively to any sexual assault victims in their home states. The guidance is contained in Department of Defense Instruction 6495.02, the Sexual Assault Policy.

      "It was positive to work with (the various military SARCs)," Lux said. "All trainers who helped with this training were extremely knowledgeable, and there was a great sharing of resources and information to benefit the participants from the National Guard, active-component Army and the U.S. Army Reserve."

      "The civilian resources who were invited to participate were subject matter experts in a variety of areas and provided firsthand knowledge of situations and resources that can benefit the military victim advocates."

      Maj. Sheila Howell, Army Reserve SAPRP manager for the U.S. Army Reserve Command at Fort McPherson, Ga., said she assisted with the training, which is mandated by the Department of Defense. The training is intended to reinforce the Army's standards and values by promoting a comprehensive program that provides victim advocacy, awareness, education, prevention and response to enhance well-being, Soldier retention, mission readiness and community interaction.

      "One of the key elements of the Army Reserve SAPRP is that it offers victims two reporting options - restricted (allows a victim to get help without setting a criminal investigation into action), and unrestricted (same services as restricted plus the military will conduct an official investigation if the incident involves a servicemember or happened on a military installation," Howell said. "The Army Reserve SAPRP teaches that all victims deserve to be treated with dignity, fairness and respect."

      The joint training opportunity helped to clarify how the other services run their programs. Howell said it was beneficial to glean information from members of the other service branches.

      "For those who will be advocates in the local Fort McCoy area it was very helpful to have civilian resources readily available to share valuable information on the services they provide and how they can support the program, and it was good to get different perspectives," Howell said.

      Maj. Cynthia Rasmussen, the Combat Operational Stress Control Officer SARC for the 88th Regional Readiness Sustainment Command Surgeon's Office, said the training reinforced and taught some of the skills that are new or unique to military environs.

      "(The role of the victim advocate) is to support the victim; this is a very important program," Rasmussen said.

      The SAPRP designates that units appoint a Soldier to be a UVA. Mashak said Fort McCoy's 12 UVAs are trained to be sensitive to a victim's immediate needs, provide support, resources and referrals, and can serve as a confidential reporting agent for those choosing a restricted report.

      Fort McCoy's UVAs help support the program through prevention activities, including monitoring ways to keep a safe, healthy environment and provide annual sexual assault awareness training for their units, she said.

      "(The program means) each unit has a subject matter expert on sexual assault (prevention), reporting options and community resources for those in need of help," Mashak said.

      Nearly 20 presenters, representing both military and civilian organizations, spoke during the program. Many civilian agencies in the surrounding areas provided subject experts on a volunteer basis to address the participants.

      "We were able to go much more in-depth on topics than if we did it just for ourselves," Mashak said. "It also was good to train with the other service programs so we know about their programs and how to help each other."

      For more information about the SAPRP at Fort McCoy, call the Fort McCoy SARC at (608) 388-8951 or visit the Web site http://www.mccoymwr.com and click on ACS School House and Sexual Assault Response Coordinator. An on-call UVA to help with concerns can be reached at (414) 238-1676.

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