SAPR program unaffected by COVID-19, social distancing
By Roland Balik, 436th Airlift Wing Public Affairs
/ Published June 08, 2020
DOVER AIR FORCE BASE, Del. -- The Sexual Assault Prevention and Response program provided support for victims of sexual assault during the shelter-in-place and significantly reduced manning orders and continues to provide support throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.
To abide by social distancing and sanitization guidelines, the SAPR program implemented new means of sexual assault reporting and providing support to victims in March 2020. To prevent any gaps in service, innovative methods were adopted to ensure victims were treated with dignity and respect, given timely access to appropriate medical services and protected from further harm.
The function of the Sexual Assault Program Coordinator is to oversee the SAPR program. The program’s victim advocates and volunteer victim advocates provide essential support, liaison services and care to victims of sexual assault. They also provide crisis intervention, to include providing information on available options and resources to assist the victim in making informed decisions about their case.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, victims can call the SAPR office and report an alleged sexual assault using virtual platforms to the SARC or SAPR volunteer victim advocates when social distancing is a concern for either party.
“The reduced manning has not affected our program,” said Gail Reed-Attoh, 436th Airlift Wing SARC. “We were able to take calls telephonically using a modified DD Form 2910 [Victim Reporting Preference Statement] for victims that did not want to meet us face-to-face and [for us] to still get them support and services they need.”
Currently, the Dover SAPR program consists of one full-time SARC and one full-time SAPR victim advocate, as well as two alternate SARCs and 12 volunteer victim advocates. The SARC and SAPR victim advocates are in their office on alternating weeks until further notice but can be contacted by phone 24/7.
“In order to be a VVA, it is only open to active-duty military members, Reserve and Air National Guard in active status and Department of Defense civilians grade GS-07 or higher,” said Wilbert Roberson, 436th Airlift Wing SAPR victim advocate.
VVAs are fully trained and certified. The SARC will meet annually with the VVA’s primary supervisor to ensure VVA duties are not negatively impacting duty performance.
“We have training available for VVAs: 40 hours annually,” said Roberson. “With that comes 32 continuing education units that they have to complete over the course of two years to maintain their certification.”
If a VVA has a permanent change of station, that certification will be valid at their next duty station; it is not just Dover AFB specific.
Having a little more time to focus on victims, two positive aftereffects manifested as a result of the shelter-in-place order and social distancing guidelines, with one being innovative.
“Offhand, victims will ask if I could call them more often and the other being me asking them if they want to Zoom or Skype,” said Reed-Attoh. “Plus, there are other virtual platforms we can use to have face-to-face contact with the victim.”
Reed-Attoh mentioned that victims prefer the in-person face-to-face rather than over the phone, because victims want to see the SAPR personnel, who also want to see them.
The SAPR program provides nonclinical support for victims who want to report an alleged sexual assault incident.
“The biggest misconception of the SAPR program is that we investigate allegations of sexual assault, which we do not, as that falls under the realm of Air Force Office of Special Investigations,” said Roberson. “We don’t question the validity of the allegation … We are not here to determine if it is true or not.”
Additionally, when a victim makes contact with SAPR program personnel, the victim is informed on the differences between a restricted report and an unrestricted report prior to choosing which report to proceed with.
“We’re a victim-centered agency, and we focus on victims of sexual assault,” said Roberson. “We are here to lend an ear and let them know what their options are when it comes to reporting sexual assault and maintaining documentation [DD Form 2910].”
If the victim contacts command or law enforcement officials to report a sexual assault incident, it automatically becomes an unrestricted report.
To report a sexual assault incident, call 302-677-3680 during normal duty hours. 24/7 services are available by phone through either the SARC 24/7/365 Report Hotline at 302-363-7272 (SARC) or the on-call cell at 302-363-2630. Email support is also available at firstname.lastname@example.org. The installation SAPR program victim advocate is Wilbert Roberson, who can be reached at 302-677-4357 during normal duty hours.