The Iowa National Guard hosted Sexual Assault Prevention and Response (SAPR) Refresher Training on March 3rd and 4th at Camp Dodge, Johnston, Iowa. The training was offered to allow SAPR Victim Advocates (VA) to attain their 16 hours of refresher training in order to maintain their Department of Defense Sexual Assault Advocate Program (D-SAACP) certification.
SAPR VA's provide high quality services and support to survivors of sexual assault, which strengthen their resilience and instill confidence and trust in the reporting process, for both restricted
reports. Restricted reports are confidential but not anonymous, and unrestricted reports are shared with the commander and investigated by Military Criminal Investigation Organization (MCIO), as stated on the sapr.mil website.
Military members from all over Iowa, as well as Minnesota and Michigan attended the training. With representatives from the Air and Army National Guard, and Army Reserve. Three of the 132d Wing's seven VA's, Master Sgt. Becky Starmer, Master Sgt. Tina Bizios and Tech. Sgt. Molly Skovronski participated in the training.
Leaders of the event were Capt. Erin Doyle, Joint Forces Headquarters (JFHQ) SARC, and Army Master Sgt. Maggie Passer, JFHQ Victim Advocate Coordinator. They used power point briefings, case studies, group discussions and guest speakers to conduct the training.
All aspects of the program were covered allowing for members to be as efficient as possible, especially when working in a deployed environment. Covering topics such as the commanders' responsibilities, victim rights, legal issues, and how to best care for the victim as the VA's take them through the process.
"In each class there was questions and discussion, but there were sessions that were meant to specifically generate dialogue between advocates. There were a few heated discussions, but that just shows that we have many people who feel strongly about the crime of sexual assault the need to provide for the survivors," said Master Sgt. Becky Starmer, 132d Wing Victim Advocate.
When the program began in 2007 it was a military certification, but now the VA's go through a very similar certification as a civilian advocate would, aside from a few classes that are specific to the civilian standards and instead put the primary focus on "military sexual assault". This DoD program is certified through NOVA (National Organization for Victim Assistance). In addition to the 80 hours of initial training (increased from 40 hours at the programs start), each advocate must complete 16 hours of continuing education each year.
While most of the refresher training is truly a refresher, there were some new resources unveiled. One of them is the www.crisistextline.org
that allows anyone to text 741-741 and they will receive assistance on a variety of topics from a certified counselor or advocate. This allows a person to send a text for help discretely without anyone around you having any idea of what you're doing. It's quick and private while still providing the help to get you what you need.
Master Sgt. Starmer hopes to continue as a victim advocate after she retires and will start working towards her NACP (National Advocate Credentialing Program) when she reaches her last year prior to retirement.
For members of the 132d Wing finding themselves in a crisis, you are encouraged to reach out to Jenny Schoer, Wing Director of Psychological Health, or any chaplain, for a Victim Advocate. Major improvements to the program have been made since it first launched, but as always, there is a team of caring people waiting to help.
The next refresher course is 13-14 August and it will be held at Classroom 23, Building S-70, Camp Dodge, Johnston, Iowa.