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What SAPR stand down day is all about

RAMSTEIN AIR BASE, Germany -- Ever since I can remember, I enjoyed helping people. It was something that brought me great happiness. Helping support my friends, family and co-workers was always something that I felt was my mission to do.

I felt a personal responsibility to serve others and to relieve the pain of those around me if I could. I felt called to do this type of work and this is why I became a clinical social worker. I believe this same energy is the true meaning behind SAPR stand down days.

In 2009, I was a SARC at a state-side base. Back then, the SAPR program was set up differently and at that time we did not receive many reports. We knew that sexual assault was happening, but the reports were minimal. We did not have SAPR stand down days. Since that time, I have personally witnessed many positive changes in the SAPR program and amazing initiatives implemented to ensure victims are receiving the services and privacy they deserve.

Looking back at that time and then seeing where we are now, I feel the increase in reporting is a positive sign that we are moving in the right direction. I would like to think that this increase shows a stronger trust in the program, the system and the Air Force.

SAPR stand down days are designed for the purpose of raising awareness, honoring the prevention and response resources available for victims and showing everyone in our community that we care. Our leadership from the top down cares about raising awareness about this problem and stopping it in our community.

The stand down day was about educating the community about reporting options, encouraging both restricted and unrestricted reporting. Another key goal was to show our community that we are standing up against sexual assault. It symbolizes that the Air Force truly cares about the service members, family members and civilians that work in our community.

Most of all, it shed some light for survivors of sexual assault and revealed to them that this culture is changing. Because of SAPR stand down days and other events like this, survivors are feeling more comfortable coming forward to report.

The SAPR office is here open 24/7 and provides on-call response 365 days a year for our community. We have more than 80 trained and certified victim advocates who are prepared to be a part of the solution to this problem.

We have over 55 people on a wait list to become victim advocates right here at Ramstein and that is without actively recruiting. Our fellow Airmen and coworkers want to raise awareness, and they want to be a part of the change in our culture by volunteering to serve as a SAPR victim advocate.

The increased participation in our program and across the Air Force shows that there are many others around us that care and want to help others in their time of need. We want survivors of sexual assault to know that it is safe to come forward and report, it is safe to be vulnerable and we will believe you and encourage you to reach out for help.

Seeking help for oneself takes great strength and shows great courage. The SAPR team will stand by to help and protect anyone that takes that first step.