VVA Course: volunteers help victims get their power back Published Jan. 13, 2020 By Senior Airman Kathryn Reaves 20th Fighter Wing Public Affairs SHAW AIR FORCE BASE, S.C. -- “My advocate was there with me. She supported me 100% and made sure I took it at my own pace. … A lot of the time, we try to act like (the assault) didn’t happen, but you have to come to terms and the realization that it did. ... At the end of the tunnel, there is definitely a light.” – Former Team Shaw member and sexual assault survivor Team Shaw’s volunteer victim advocates work within the Sexual Assault Prevention and Response program to provide crucial services to individuals who experience sexual assault, such as conducting nonclinical assessments, coordinating referrals and accompanying victims to appointments including medical evaluations and investigative interviews. The SAPR office hopes to welcome new team members to assist in this mission at a Sexual Assault VVA Course scheduled for March 9-13. Advocates demonstrate their desire to serve and support others by providing 24/7 response and care to sexual assault victims while also educating the base populace. “When a person is sexually assaulted, their power in that moment has been taken away,” said Monica Murray, SAPR victim advocate. “Often, the VVA is the person they are connected with who starts to help them get their power back. I can’t express enough the amazing work the VVAs do.” One survivor said they would have felt much different about their reporting experience and the availability of resources if they did not have the SAPR office. “My experience with the program was exceptional – they bypassed every expectation I could have ever had,” said the survivor. “It made me realize I wasn’t by myself and I wasn’t the only person who had been through this situation. I definitely feel like it would have been a lot harder (without them). Having them there took a weight off my shoulders knowing I wasn’t doing it by myself.” When VAAs are not providing response services to victims, they focus on the prevention of sexual assaults by providing education during commander’s functions and key audience briefings. Individuals interested in becoming a VAA must meet the following criteria: – Active-duty military, Air Force Reserve or Air National Guard member on active status or Department of Defense civilian employee – Pay grade of E-4 or higher and at least 21 years old or pay grade of O-2 or higher or a civilian in the grade of GS-07 or higher – Not of a disqualifying Air Force Specialty Code or civilian job equivalent Individuals must also complete an application, a background check and an interview. If interested, or for more information, contact the SAPR office at 803-895-1928.