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News | March 19, 2018

Stephanie VanRiper, DLA Energy Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Program

By DLA Energy Public Affairs

Editor's note: This year’s Women’s History Month theme is “Nevertheless She Persisted” and honors women who are committed to ending discrimination against women and girls and work with strength, tenacity and courage to overcome obstacles and achieve joyful accomplishments. Throughout the month of March, DLA Energy will highlight a few employees who go to great strides to embody this spirit.

What is your job title, and what do you do? I am a Sexual Assault Response Coordinator, or SARC for short. My ultimate responsibility is to advocate for and assist victims of sexual assault. Once someone discloses to me they have been sexually assaulted, I will make sure they are safe, provide crisis intervention, and discuss options and resources with him/her. My secondary job is to be the subject matter expert for my leadership. If they have been notified about a sexual assault, I’m there to assist them with managing the case. I also discuss with them SAPR trends, systemic issues, and ideas for prevention to keep our workplace free from sexual assault.

How did you get into this career field? Originally, I started out in law enforcement; I joined the Military Police Corps in the Army and then became a civilian police officer. But as time went on, I found it more and more difficult to respond to domestic and sexual assault calls, take a report, maybe or maybe not arrest someone, and go to the next call. I wanted to do more to help the victim. I wanted to follow up to make sure they received services, or were able to get to a shelter – do something besides just leave them there. Unfortunately, during that time, that really was not what police work was about. So, I decided to become a victim advocate for the Army. I worked a lot of domestic violence cases and some sexual assault cases. Being a military spouse meant moving a lot and working for a lot of different organizations. My career changed a time or two, but I always continued to work in victim advocacy whether it was paid or volunteer work. Finally, about three years ago, I ended up working exclusively with sexual assault victims which, I think, is a worthwhile endeavor.   

If you could go back in time, what would you tell yourself about the future? Put yourself out there. Not for yourself, but for those who can’t.

Have you had a mentor that helped you grow in your career? I do not have one specific mentor that has helped me because my career has not been a traditional one.  Over the years, I have worked with awesome women whose professions range from police officers, to lawyers, to nurses, and social workers. Many of us have worked cases with each other and, while we may have changed jobs since then, we continue to strive to help victims of crime. We share trainings or educational information we receive; we talk about our careers; we discuss how to ‘think outside the box’ to help a client or how to draw boundaries when working with a client; we even offer advice on how to practice better self-care. We all mentor each other because we not only have a wealth of knowledge but also different experiences and perspectives from which to draw. I’ve been lucky enough to build a strong network of mentors; we lift each other up and want to see others succeed.

If you could say one thing to a victim of sexual assault, what would it be? You are not alone!

If you or someone you know is a victim of sexual assault please contact the DLA SAPR Hotline at 800-841-0937.