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Victim Advocate Files: Senior Airman Heather Starling

ELLSWORTH AIF FORCE BASE, S.D. -- (Editor's Note: This feature story is part of the "Victim Advocate Files" series that focuses on the Airmen who provide support to sexual assault victims and do their part to prevent future incidents among Ellsworth Airmen.)

Ellsworth is currently home to 32 victim advocates - men and women who sacrifice their time and energy to make certain no sexual assault victim has to endure the recovery process alone.

Airmen who report a sexual assault are eligible to receive medical care and professional guidance to help them obtain a sense of closure about their situation. Victim advocates stand at the ready, guaranteeing the support for victims doesn't end with exams and interviews.

Among the base's victim advocates is Senior Airman Heather Starling, 28th Operations Support Squadron radar air traffic controller.

Part of the program since August 2011, Starling said that her responsibilities as an advocate include staffing the Sexual Assault Prevention and Response hotline and facilitating briefings and discussions designed to promote sexual assault awareness.

"I first heard about victim advocacy in a SAPR briefing and saw it as an opportunity to get involved in eliminating sexual assault in the Air Force," Starling said. "Since then, I've learned, while not every Airman is, or will ever be sexually assaulted, every Airman is affected by it."

Starling, who heralds from Bristol, Tenn., has been in the U.S. Air Force since November 2009, and said that the best part of her job is having a positive impact on others, especially those in need of closure from a traumatic experience.

"I believe sexual assault is something that no one should have to experience," Starling added. "That's why I think it's so important to educate everyone on base. That way, we can reduce these types of incidents and work in an environment that is free of sexual assault."

For more information on becoming a victim advocate, call the SAPR Office at (605) 385-5233.

To report sexual assault, call the SAPR Office at (605) 385-5233 or the 24/7 reporting line at (605) 385-SARC (7272).