Hurlburt Field's Victim Advocates help in time of need

  • Published
  • By Ashley M. Wright
  • 1st Special Operations Wing Public Affairs
Going from inspecting bombs to being a lifeline might seem like a stretch for some, but one Hurlburt Field Airman plans to do just that.

Once Staff Sgt. Jeremy Ganz, 1st Special Operations Equipment Maintenance Squadron Munitions crew chief, completes four days of intense training, he will be one of 18 people on Hurlburt Field qualified to serve as a victim advocate under the Sexual Assault Response Coordinator program.

"It is a good thing to help people in that situation," said Sergeant Ganz, who believes his bachelor's degree in psychology will provide more insight into assisting victims toward recovery.

Some of the job functions of an advocate include encouraging a victim to seek medical attention, accompanying the victim through the investigation interviews if requested. They also support the victim in decision-making by providing information of available options and conduct various training on awareness and risk reduction.

"We want the victim to be fully trained because we only get one shot," said Janet Morrison, Hurlburt Field SARC. "[Victim advocates are] people on the other end of the phone who are trained to handle [the situation]. To be an advocate, they need to want to help the victim, not check a box."

The training includes visits to the legal office and the Air Force Office of Special Investigations. In addition, the trainees learn how to deal with trauma, family violence and are given scenarios and homework.

"I think I got a little more with the readings," Sergeant Ganz said. "You can read a lot into [the victim's] quotations. Years later, the victim can't say the words."

The training is combined with Eglin Air Force Base and given twice a year, Ms. Morrison said. However, the program is not for everyone. At the last session, three of the original eight participants did not make it through the curriculum.

Applicants must go through an interview process, pass a background check and have a recommendation from their commander. Once the individual completes the training, the advocate status transfers to new assignments and duty locations. Any rank of the military or Defense Department civilian member has the potential to become an advocate.

Ms. Morrison said the base's advocates are not "fully employed," because Air Force Special Operations Command has the lowest reported rate of sexual assaults, but they are used for education, outreach and continue their commitment to the victims with monthly training.

Using a victim advocate allows the individual to remain in restricted status, Ms. Morrison said. This means the person will remain anonymous if desired. In addition, the victim can choose not to contact an advocate if he or she wishes.

"Our program is for the victims," Ms. Morrison said.

The SARC office can be reached at 850-884-7272.