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Defense Department Bolsters Victim Advocacy With New Initiatives

By Army Sgt. 1st Class Tyrone C. Marshall Jr.
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Oct. 3, 2013 – The Defense Department continues to take steps to improve victims’ confidence in sexual assault advocacy through a multi-pronged approach, said the deputy director for DOD’s Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office.

Air Force Col. Alan R. Metzler, SAPRO’s deputy director, emphasized that the first step to stopping sexual assault in the military is through prevention and working to reinforce cultural imperatives of mutual trust and respect, team commitment, and professional values.

When prevention fails, he said, we have taken steps to improve victims’ confidence and combat underreporting through new measures that went into effect this week. Metzler outlined the DOD Sexual Assault Advocate Certification Program (D-SAACP) and the Defense Sexual Assault Incident Database (DSAID), two initiatives set to improve the advocacy services provided to victims of sexual assault.

D-SAACP is a training and certification program for Sexual Assault Response Coordinators (SARCs) and Sexual Assault Prevention and Response (SAPR) Victim Advocates (VAs). The D-SAACP professionalizes the victim advocacy roles in alignment with national certification standards and standardizes many of the requirements for SARCs and SAPR VAs across the Services. SARCs and VAs play a vital role in supporting victims of sexual assault and are central to commanders’ efforts in building rapport and trust needed to create a cohesive team within every unit. More than 22,000 SARCs and SAPR VAs have completed D-SAACP training and met national certification standards.

“Proper training for SARCs and SAPR VAs is critical to ensuring that all SAPR responders are equipped to provide professional and informed advocacy services,” said Metzler. “Victims can be confident they have access to professional victim advocates and will be treated with dignity and respect throughout their recovery.”

In order to apply, SARCs and VAs must submit an application, which requires signing the SARC/SAPR VA Code of Ethics, submitting two letters of recommendation, and completing 32 hours of victim advocacy continuing education training. SARCs and SAPR VAs must re-certify to continue providing victim assistance services every two years.

Also, on Oct. 1, the Department met Congressional requirements to implement a standardized, centralized, case-level database which maintains information on sexual assaults. DSAID will serve as the database of record for future reporting.

DSAID provides SARCs the enhanced ability to provide comprehensive and standardized victim case management. DSAID will help each Service to more thoroughly assess the effectiveness of their response efforts by providing a better tool to manage cases and track referral services for victims of sexual assault. Privacy rules for the database comply with DOD and federal regulations regarding information assurance, privacy, and records management.

“Our sexual assault prevention and response program is focused on the concerns and needs of victims and we have worked diligently to improve our system of response,” said Metzler. “We encourage victims to seek help, and we value their decisions and respect their privacy.”

The Defense Department, recognizing that increased victim confidence and reporting is “a bridge to greater victim care and offender accountability,” remains committed to prevention of sexual assault, and providing comprehensive care to victims this crime.

“The Defense Department, and its leaders, take the crime of sexual assault very seriously,” he said. “We are leading change to create an environment where everyone is safe and victims do not experience retaliation.”

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