Coordinating the Coast Guard response to sexual assault

Logos representing the U.S. Coast Guard Office of Health, Safety & Work-Life, the teal ribbon signifiying the military's commitment to eliminating sexual assault, and the seal of the U.S. Coast Guard Judge Advocate General. U.S. Coast Guard illustration by Petty Officer 2nd Class Kelly Parker.

Written by Cmdr. Chris O’Neil, Public Affairs Officer, Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Military Campaign Office.

Forty-five participants from 30 units. Twelve Topics. Eight speakers in three August days. One vital purpose – U.S. Coast Guard Sexual Assault Response Coordinator Training.

San Antonio, Texas, was the location where Coast Guard sexual assault prevention and response professionals mustered to share best practices, learn about policy changes and program improvements and to receive information from subject matter experts in the fields of sexual assault forensic evidence collection, sexual assault investigations and sexual assault legal processes. The three-day agenda is mandatory initial training for all Sexual Assault Response Coordinators new to the Coast Guard, building a standardized foundation to help them provide the best services possible.

“Coast Guard Sexual Assault Response Coordinator Training is designed to bring together the professionals within the Coast Guard who fulfill the SARC role so they can gain a standardized vision of what it means to be a SARC in our organization and to network among themselves,” said Shawn Wren, program manager for the Coast Guard’s Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Program. .

Coast Guard Sexual Assault Response Coordinators are responsible for the training and management of the service’s more than 900 Victim Advocates. Wren said ensuring that Coast Guard SARCs fully understand the latest program changes, policy updates and techniques is key to their ability to deliver the training and guidance Victim Advocates need to be successful in their role of helping Coast Guard sexual assault victims become survivors.

“In addition to meeting more seasoned SARCs, the opportunity to hear our three guest speakers, Cmdr. Vasilios Tasikas from the Coast Guard’s military justice office, Special Agent Beverly Vogel from Coast Guard Investigative Services and Shelley Botello, a sexual assault nurse examiner, was invaluable,” said Leslie Cardona, a new Sexual Assault Response Coordinator for the New York region. “The guest speakers provided insight into portions of SARC work that will help me perform better.”

Cardona said some of the takeaways for her included the clarification on policy for restricted reporting aboard underway afloat units and the discussion of suicidal situations involving sexual assault survivors.

“Overall the training did a wonderful job in preparing me for SARC work in the Coast Guard. I’ve already started using things I learned from the class,” said Cardona.

Just as the SAPR Program has standardized the Victim Advocate training, the SARC training is undergoing a similar review and standardization, with any eye to the credentialing of its SARCs.

“All of the SARCs and VAs within the Coast Guard will shortly begin a credentialing process, which will align the Coast Guard with the DoD credentialing process,” said Wren “The Coast Guard’s credentialing requirements meet the same requirements that civilian Victim Advocates must meet for the National Organization of Victim Assistance‘s National Advocate Credentialing Program. This credentialing by NOVA will ensure that all of our SARCs and VAs are professional, properly educated through standardized training, and that they possess the traits expected of a person in a position of trust such as a SARC or VA.”

The training conducted in San Antonio is but one of many actions taken or being taken by the Coast Guard as it strives to eliminate sexual assault from the service while improving its response system.

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