Airmen provide support for sexual assault victims

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Audra M. Hornbacher
  • 28th Bomb Wing Public Affairs
"A victim advocate is someone who believes the victim right off the bat - when it may seem like no one else does."

That statement, made by Kelly Dominguez, 28th Bomb Wing sexual assault response coordinator, clearly defines the role of Ellsworth's victim advocates.

"They are someone who stands there with the victim," Dominguez continued. "They give information, referrals and resources. Advocates are on call 24 hours a day. They're so important."

Victim advocates wear several hats, including filling in for the SARC at various events and functions, providing support and information to victims, and setting the example throughout Ellsworth for what is and isn't acceptable behavior.

"There are more women in the military now than there used to be," said Master Sgt. Susan
Grinde, 34th Aircraft Maintenance Unit specialist section chief and victim advocate. "Everyone needs to know what proper professional behavior is. We need to make changes because times are changing."

When someone becomes a victim of sexual assault, they have the right to make either a restricted or unrestricted report to the SARC. When a restricted report is made, the victim and the advocate begin a relationship privately to work through the situation together.

On the other hand, if the victim makes an unrestricted report, an investigation begins, which can potentially bring the attacker to justice. Investigations typically involve health care professionals, the U.S. Air Force Office of Special Investigations and respective commanders.

Both restricted and unrestricted reports still give the option for health care, mental health care and a victim advocate.

Advocates are available to offer vital support, to include sitting with the victim when they're answering questions about the investigation, if one is started, or offer information where the victim may reach out for more help.

"I've only had one case," said Grinde. "When she would get interviewed, I was always there. Any time she needed support, she would call me and I would be there for her."

Once a year, typically around the beginning of the summer, the SARC office hosts an initial 40-hour training course for Ellsworth's newest advocates. Victim advocates then attend quarterly training meetings.

"If victims don't come forward, then we won't know that there is a problem," Grinde noted. "I encourage everyone to get involved in some way. For me, this is my calling."

For information on becoming a victim advocate or to report an assault, call the SARC office at (605) 385- 5233 or (605) 385-7272.