Airmen supporting Airmen through victim advocacy

  • Published
  • By Airman Elijah Van Zandt
  • 341st Missile Wing Public Affairs
Airmen who are survivors of sexual assault have a crucial resource at their disposal: volunteer victim advocates. They help victims get back on their feet through information, resources and emotional support.

The Airmen in this program are volunteers with the Sexual Assault Prevention and Response program, which requires them to participate in a lengthy training, leading to a certification. The course helps fortify the VVA in areas such as non-clinical support, interpersonal communication skills, as well as advising survivors in making informed decisions.

First Lt. Madison Manu, 341st Comptroller Squadron financial operations flight commander and a newly-selected VVA, gave insight on how the 40-hour training prepared her for the role.

“I learned about the trauma that survivors experience, the history of sexual assault in the military and then applied that knowledge to better understand the dynamic between the advocate and the victim,” said Manu. “These are tough conversations to have, and the volunteer victim advocate training is key to getting the conversation started with the victim.”

These advocates are not simply volunteers, but first responders for many Airmen who need guidance on the path to healing.

VVAs have the responsibility of being on-call for when a sexual assault occurs, accompanying a victim during important interviews with medical personnel, law enforcement or other agencies and are trusted with client confidentiality as restricted reporters.

Last month, four new VVAs were trained and are awaiting their last application approval for certification to join the program. Continuing to increase the number of qualified and caring advocates is essential to the success of the program.

“It would be ideal to have a volunteer victim advocate in each unit to educate their peers on resources and to also be available for any questions or concerns,” said Tech. Sgt. Monique Hulse, 341st Missile Wing SAPR noncommissioned officer in charge. “Someone should consider volunteering as a victim advocate not only to help others by offering support and resources, but to receive education that no other Air Force training can provide.”

SAPR is always looking for new advocates looking to make a difference.

“This program allows us to empower and build trust with survivors of sexual assault and gives the advocate great tools and knowledge that can benefit anyone,” said Hulse.

The deadline for next quarter training is April 30, and for questions on the VVA program, call Malmstrom’s SAPR office at 406-731-4225, or stop by their office in building 770 for more information.