Here to Help: Victim advocates ready to assist in difficult, complex times

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Kelly Goonan
  • Robins Public Affairs

After 20 years serving her country in the Air Force, retired Master Sgt. Marilyn “Lyn” Robinson is pursuing another passion – helping folks when they’ve been the victims of sexual assault.

The former surveillance technician who used to fly on the E-3 Sentry Airborne Warning and Control System and the E-8 Joint Surveillance Target Attack Radar System aircraft says she doesn’t look at her job as a 78th Air Base Wing Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office victim advocate as work but as a blessing.

“My military career was incredibly rewarding, but I’ve always felt more connected to people than machines,” she said. “Being a victim advocate feels much more natural for me.”

In contrast to observing and communicating movement through radios and satellites to protect troops, Lyn observes and addresses the range of needs of people who come to her in a different way.

The emotions that come with the position can be the best and the worst part of her job, she said. Talking with someone about their fears, darkest moments and worst experiences is incredibly personal. And, the situations that come through her office can be complex and difficult. 

“We want to be there for them,” she said. “Often I find myself crying along with them.”

Many find that they don’t have family or close friends nearby to talk to about their experiences. Often what someone has gone through is far too traumatizing or stressful that the individual just doesn’t want to talk about it … shrugging off what they think they can deal with, she explained.

However, Lyn said the traumatic experiences have ways of manifesting in other aspects of a person’s life, and often it’s unbeknownst to the individual.

“If we deal with things when they happen, it makes life better for us and for the people around us,” she said. “The best part of the job is that once the victims become survivors, they can look back. They can use their experience and reach out to other people who may need support. They can tell them, ‘Hey, I was there. They really did help.’”

SARCs and SAPR victim advocates are responsible by law and Department of Defense and Air Force Instructions to protect the confidentiality of both restricted and unrestricted reports. SAPR personnel who violate confidentiality rules are subject to the full range of disciplinary action ranging from administrative action to court-martial, depending on the status of the individual in question and the nature of the violation.

The SARC reports directly to the installation wing commander or equivalent, or the vice wing commander, executing the Air Force's Sexual Assault Prevention and Response program at the installation level. SARCs assist unit commanders as necessary to ensure victims of sexual assault receive appropriate and responsive care.