Volunteer Victim Advocates needed

  • Published
  • By John Harrington
  • 88th Air Base Wing Public Affairs
WRIGHT-PATTERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Ohio – Wright-Patterson Air Force Base’s Sexual Assault Prevention and Response office is in need of Volunteer Victim Advocates who want to make a critical difference in the lives of those impacted by sexual assault.

VVAs are military members who are selected, trained and credentialed to provide non-clinical crisis intervention, referral and ongoing non-clinical support to adult sexual assault victims, according to WPAFB Installation Sexual Assault Response Coordinator April Barrows.

“Currently our office is comprised of four full-time individuals and we have 10 active VVAs who rotate on-call,” Barrows said. “This is why we are calling on all Team Wright-Patt members that meet our criteria to volunteer. Turnover rates are generally higher in the summer months when our VVAs [transfer to other bases]. Though the process of becoming certified can be rigorous, the reward in the end is worth it when you get to be a part of this amazing program.”

Barrows said all potential VVAs are interviewed in-person by Sexual Assault Prevention and Response office staff members and complete a 40-hour in-residence course in order to become nationally credentialed. VVAs then volunteer their time to provide crisis response through a 24/7 hotline and by performing outreach across the installation via informational tables and conducting briefings.

“I would say the most difficult part would be receiving a phone call. It just is a reminder that there are predators out there and, sadly, they violated someone,” said Staff Sgt. Elena Arrasmith, who’s served as a VVA for a little over a year. “The best part is taking care of these individuals and ensuring they are safe and taken care of to the best of my ability.”

Those who volunteer for the program should be aware that taking care of people facing what is likely the most traumatic event to happen in their lives can be stressful for the responder as well, according to Barrows.

“Being a VVA can sometimes be emotionally draining because everyone wants to ensure they are doing right by the person they are helping,” Barrows said. “When there are questions, our full-time staff is there to assure VVA’s that they are doing the right thing or guide the VVA in the right direction. We focus heavily on self-care in the SAPR office because it is important that you are healthy in order to assist others in their time of need.”

For those up for the challenge, becoming a VVA can add a sense of purpose, provide immediate feedback on helping someone in crisis and could even help their career -- though Barrows said that should never be a primary consideration when volunteering.

“There is so much that VVA’s get from this program. Not only are you able to provide immediate crisis intervention, but you also start to see your clients thrive over a span of time,” Barrows said. “Additionally, becoming a VVA is a great [evaluation] bullet because there are very few on this installation, so it sets you apart from others.”

The next Volunteer Victim Advocate Initial Course is scheduled for May 20-24, 2019 from 7:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Those interested in attending should apply for approval through the WPAFB SAPR Office by emailing 88abw.cvk@us.af.mil. Volunteers cannot be members on G-series orders, First Sergeants, Chief Master Sergeants, law enforcement, the Office of Staff Judge Advocate, Special Victims’ Counsel, Area Defense Counsel, those with direct patient care, Equal Opportunity or Chaplains.

For questions or more information, call (937) 257-7272.