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Naval Hospital Bremerton Victim Advocates recognized

Standing ready to support those in need…members of Naval Hospital Bremerton’s uniformed victim advocates take part in Naval Base Kitsap’s Sexual Assault Victim Advocate Appreciation held in conjunction with the Navy recognizing April as Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month (Official Navy photo by Douglas H Stutz, NHB Public Affairs)

Story by Douglas Stutz 

Naval Hospital Bremerton

There were 66 reports of sexual abuse at Naval Base Kitsap in Fiscal Year 2017.

Those 66 reports meant 66 victims – 49 women and 17 men made a restricted or unrestricted report of sexual assault – in need of timely and trusting support.

Such support was more often than not provided by trained Sexual Assault Prevention and Response (SAPR) uniformed victim advocates (VA).

For their effort of putting supporting service before self, Naval Hospital Bremerton (NHB) VAs joined other VAs from various commands for a Sexual Assault Victim Advocate Appreciation ceremony April 3, 2018.

“Uniformed victim advocates provide care and support 24/7. They are expected to be able to respond within 60 minutes to help someone who just experienced the most harrowing event ever and don’t know where to begin. The VA is there to guide them through the entire recovery process,’ said Sharlyne Hays, Naval Base Kitsap Lead Sexual Assault Response Coordinator (SARC), noting that one in three women and one in six men will experience sexual abuse during their lifetime.

The event was held in conjunction with April being Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month (SAAPM) throughout the U.S. Navy. This year’s theme is ‘Protecting Our People Protects Our Mission.’

SAAPM is recognized in April by both civilian and military communities. The Department of Defense observes SAAPM by focusing on creating the appropriate culture to eliminate sexual assault and requiring a personal commitment from all service members at every level.

There are 234 VAs assigned to over 30 commands in Navy Region Northwest providing support to approximately 14,000 Sailors and Marines.

According to Hays, VAs are a testament to the compassion, caring and concern needed to help someone in need if they are a victim of a crime.

“Sexual Assault Prevention and Response (SAPR) victim advocates are the backbone of the entire SAPR program and a core element of the first responder team working in unison to provide care and response to victims of sexual assault. Victim advocates work closely with victims to empower them by explaining their options and supporting their decisions,” Hays said.

The 16 VAs assigned to NHB are trained volunteers to assist with command and region-wide Sexual Assault Prevention and Response (SAPR) programs, Sexual Assault Response Coordinators (SARC), and Sexual Assault Forensic Examinations (SAFE) teams.

VAs receive comprehensive training to provide immediate front-line, deck-plate prevention, response, and accountability for the safety, dignity, and well-being of Sailors and Marines. The role of a VA is to be there to help and provide support for a sexual assault victim through the entire process of dealing with the traumatic event. VAs are not there to judge. They are there to support.

“We all hope we never have to use this collateral duty. But if we do, we’ll be there,” said Lt. Stacy Uzueta, NHB SAPR coordinator.

The NBK Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Team comprised of Hays, Lead SACR, Charlie Peterson, SARC, and Sexual Assault Victim Advocates Candace Cardinal and Olena Del Valle, were also acknowledged for their continual effort.

“Quality victim services start and end with victim advocates. The healing for survivors of sexual assault begins with the victim advocate response,” stated Hays.

The Navy’s victim advocates help reinforce a culture of prevention, response, and accountability for the safety, dignity, and well-being of Sailors and Marines. The Department of the Navy does not tolerate sexual assault. The SAPR program provides a balance of focused education, comprehensive response, compassionate advocacy, and just adjudication in order to promote professionalism, respect, and trust, while preserving Navy mission readiness.

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