Victim advocates needed

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Duncan McElroy
  • 81st Training Wing Public Affairs
The sexual assault prevention and response office's victim advocates are the first line of support for Airmen victimized by sexual assault.

A five-day victim advocate training program is scheduled for Sept. 29-Oct. 3, at Dolan Hall. Volunteers will learn the fundamentals of crisis intervention, providing 24/7 non-clinical support, informed decision-making, and providing further resources for victims.

Started in 2005, the VA program is an ever-growing network of Airmen and Department of Defense civilians from all different career fields and backgrounds.

"There's always been a need for VAs since the beginning of the program," said Barry Newman, the full-time sexual assault victim advocate. "They're just people that have that desire to assist other people during a difficult time. They're very passionate, empathetic people that come to volunteer."

The program has a wide variety of VAs, according to 1st Lt. Tawny Gardner, Keesler's sexual assault response coordinator. Clients are often matched with advocates that share similar personalities and interests, in order to better support the victims.

"It's a big group of people who want to help others and help make a change," said Gardner.

Airmen, both enlisted and officer, as well as DOD civilians are encouraged to volunteer for VA training. Volunteers must go through an application process that involves a personal interview with the SAPR office and a background check.

Once the check is complete, they are enrolled in the 40-hour, five-day training course. Upon completion, they receive their Victim Advocate Training certificate, permitting them to apply for national certification, which then allows the VA to assist victims of sexual assault.

"Support doesn't stop after two weeks," said Christine McGill, SAPR program specialist and victim advocate. "A VA is available to a victim for as long as they need them, even after they leave Keesler."

Those interested in volunteering for the VA program can email the SARC office at, or stop by the office at Dolan Hall, Room 156, for the application packet.

For more information, call228-377-8635.