Fort Belvoir, Va –
Representatives from the Defense Logistics Agency’s Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Program learned about new policies and resources to help prevent sexual harassment and assault during the National Organization for Victim Assistance’s 48th Annual Training Event in Denver, Colorado, Aug. 1-4.
NOVA is the credentialing body for Defense Department SAPR personnel, and the conference provides training and up-to-date resources, said Bethrece Cheek, DLA’s SAPR program manager.
Sexual assault response coordinators from throughout DLA’s major subordinate commands learned about new laws and policies and attended training sessions on prevention, response, recovery and self-care – not just for victims, but for victim service providers.
“In this field, it’s hard to let go of what we take in when we’re working with victims,” Cheek said. “People who work in this field are passionate about what we do and the services we provide to victims. It’s natural we take on some of this, and NOVA realizes that we are a part of this. You can’t pour from an empty cup. If our cup isn’t full, how can we provide the best support to victims?”
Ella Warren, the SARC for DLA Energy, said the focus on self-care helped her return from the conference reenergized and ready to share new information with her MSC.
“I came back more refreshed and more prepared to work with my workforce,” she said, adding she also attended training on trauma. “I believe going to those trauma-informed care sessions helped me out a lot as an advocate because I was able to process the information a little differently this time.”
Warren, who is also the chairperson of DLA Energy’s Diversity Equity Inclusion and Accessibility Committee, attended a session on combating bias in victim services and intends to use the training she received to focus on the uniqueness of individual experiences.
“In order for us to change the culture, we have to start with the individual person and realize that each person who comes into the organization is different and has his or her own set of cultures and set of beliefs,” Warren said.
One doesn’t have to be a SARC or victim advocate to make a change, she added.
Shari Murnahan, the SARC for DLA Land and Maritime, said she wants to continue challenging myths surrounding sexual assault, including victim blaming, and help leaders create safe environments where survivors feel comfortable coming forward.
Engaging young people in conversations about prevention is important, and it was included in discussions at this year’s conference, Murnahan added.
“Prevention needs to be a part of our everyday lives, and it needs to start at an early age,” she said. “Conversations, not just with advocates but with moms and dads and people impacting our youth, are very important in making a difference.”
DLA SARCs also attended a keynote address about male sexual assault, which ties into a DOD initiative launched at the beginning of the year that coincides with DLA efforts to continue focusing on prevention, which includes increasing the conversation about male sexual assault.
“Male sexual assault is extremely underreported,” Cheek said. “There’s a stigma with men coming forward. You don’t hear a great deal about it. It was really good to see DOD and NOVA making that connection and providing that training for us.”
This was the first training event DLA SAPR representatives attended in person since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, Cheek said. It also was the first time many of the DLA SARCs gathered since the pandemic, and it gave Cheek a chance to meet new SARCs in person.
“It’s very exciting to be among peers, and it was great for my team to get together,” Cheek said.
“We’ve done a great job of connecting and supporting each other virtually over the past few years, but it was really nice to put names to faces,” Murnahan said. “It renewed a lot of my energy just being able to connect with each other.”
To reach the DLA SAPR 24/7 Hotline call 1-800-841-0937 or visit the website.