Victim advocates provide shoulders to lean on

  • Published
  • By Jenny Gordon
  • 78th Air Base Wing Public Affairs
Robins Sexual Assault Response Coordinator Office victim advocates are a group of individuals who volunteer their time and energy - sometimes at a moment's notice.

"A lot of times when a person has been traumatized, victimized and violated, they have a lot of people telling them what to do," said Cindy Graver, Robins SARC. "All they really need is a person to let them pour some stuff out of their glass so they can think and breathe.

"We have very dedicated people here who have big hearts, skills and compassion to help them with that," she added.

Shannon McCain, one of 22 active advocates, is a 402nd Software Maintenance Group process analyst who has been involved with victim advocacy at Robins for about five years.

"The most important thing to do is to listen and find out what they need," said McCain, who became involved with advocacy because a relative had been the victim of a sexual assault long ago.

"It's also vital to let them know that it's not their fault, that there is nothing they could have done to change what happened," she added. "You let them know they are strong - they will survive."

Advocates are not therapists or attorneys, emphasized Graver, but are available any time should a victim need an understanding ear.

They can work a rotating weekend schedule and are on-call 24 hours should the need arise. All undergo a 40-hour training course.

Felicia Clark-Reid has volunteered the past year and a half, and has also facilitated Air Force Materiel Command's Bystander Intervention Training at Robins.

All military personnel and civilians who supervise military members are required to take the 90-minute course by June 30.

Part of her role with BIT has been sharing with officer, enlisted and civilian supervisors how to become engaged; that everyone has leadership characteristics, starting with people who hold responsibilities from the bottom up.

Interactive scenarios are also conducted during BIT classes. The goal is to let bystanders who may witness an incident be the person who speaks up, said Clark-Reid.
"I have always felt that one victim is one too many," said Clark-Reid, a 402nd Aircraft Maintenance Group training specialist. "The main thing is to help victims ... to change them into survivors. It's important because trauma affects people in many different ways. Some people may snap back regardless of the situation, but there are others who may need a friend to talk to, or guidance and direction to begin the healing process.

"My experience has been extremely beneficial seeing people go home feeling much safer," she said. For more information or to get in contact with the SARC office, call (478) 327-7272, 926-2946, or 952-6002.

April has been designated National Sexual Assault Awareness Month. Month-long activities at Robins have also included self-defense classes and awareness campaigns.