BEAUFORT, S.C. (NNS) -- Leadership at Naval Hospital Beaufort recognized the valuable contributions of the command's victim advocates April 30, by hosting a luncheon in their honor.
"The work that our victim advocates do to support the victims of sexual assault with compassion and decency is invaluable and upholds our commitment of zero tolerance for sexual abuse at this command or in the Navy," said Capt. Joan Queen, Naval Hospital Beaufort's commanding officer. "When one of our Sailors, or one of our family members is sexually assaulted, it affects each and every one of us on some level and ultimately degrades mission readiness. What affects one, truly does affect all."
The luncheon, which was coordinated by Sonja Strickland, the command's Sexual Assault Response Coordinator (SARC), was provided as a way of thanking Naval Hospital Beaufort's victim advocates for their hard work, dedication, and contributions to mission readiness by volunteering to support the command's Sexual Assault Response Program (SAPR). The menu included spaghetti, salad, bread, and cake, which was cooked by the department heads.
"April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month, and we've been working hard to raise awareness about the importance of preventing sexual assault, but it's also important to recognize those who are personally dedicated to helping the victims," said Strickland. "Becoming a victim advocate requires over 40 hours of training, getting a background check, and getting nationally certified. For all of our victim advocates, this is on top of their regular, day-to-day jobs because this is a collateral duty."
The victim advocates provide support and advocacy for victims of sexual assault every step of the way. Victim advocates provide initial crisis intervention, stand by during physical examinations and interviews, provide information about the different reporting options, assist victims in obtaining medical and mental health care, and even accompany them to court proceedings.
According to Strickland, the hospital has 16 victim advocates in all, both male and female, and unlike other services that require them to be an E6 or above, the Navy encourages advocates from all pay grades.
"Sexual assault victims can be any age or gender," said Strickland. "When a victim is young, they often feel more comfortable with a victim advocate who is closer to their own age. And because sexual assault is not just a female crime, it's important that we have male VAs (victim advocates) to provide support and advocacy."
One of the advocates the luncheon, Hospital Corpsman 1st Class Gregory Hadley, says he became an advocate after a family member was sexually assault five years ago.
"I saw how it affected her and how it affected me a lot," said Hadley. "I just wanted to do what I could to help others in this situation." Hadley first became a victim advocate while stationed at Camp Lejeune with the 8th Marine Regiment and decided to continue when he was transferred to Naval Hospital Beaufort.
Strickland says the command has been incredibly supportive of the program and ensuring that the advocates have the time they need to complete their training requirements and be available when they have duty.
"This command is not going to stand for any sexual assault and they're doing everything they can to make sure that everyone at Naval Hospital Beaufort is safe."
Sexual Assault Prevention and Response is an important element of the readiness area of the 21st Century Sailor and Marine initiative which consolidates a set of objectives and policies, new and existing, to maximize Sailor and Marine personal readiness, build resiliency and hone the most combat-effective force in the history of the Navy and Marine Corps. The Department of the Navy is working to aggressively to prevent sexual assaults, to support sexual assault victims, and to hold offenders accountable.
Help raise awareness by joining the conversation on social media using #SexualAssault and #SAAPM.
Open since 1949, Naval Hospital Beaufort provides general medical, surgical, and emergency services to all active duty personnel, as well as retired military and family members residing in the Beaufort area, a total population of approximately 29,000 beneficiaries.
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