ROYAL AIR FORCE LAKENHEATH, England --
Volunteer victim advocates, and Sexual Assault Prevention and Response personnel collaborate with British Experts on an annual basis for British National Liaison Training Day.
The joint training provides both communities an opportunity to exchange ideas and educate the other on community efforts to tackling sexual assault, child abuse and suicide.
Guest speakers for this years iteration were Doctors Daniel Boduszek, Agata Debowska, Danielle McDermott and Dominic Willmott, professors from U.K. universities, who spoke about topics on reducing and removing sexual assault bias from U.K. trials, psychopathy and the link to child abuse, suicide and self-harm in sexual assault victims, and recognizing warning signs of abuse and the predicators.
“It’s amazing to have the subject-matter experts from different career fields to come out and speak to us,” said a staff sergeant volunteer victim advocate. “This is the first base I’ve ever been to where we’ve had subject-matter experts come out and speak to us.”
Having researchers from the field provide insight to helping victims is paramount to the work confidence, knowledge and ability of victim advocates and SAPR personnel.
“In this training we also learned about different parts of psychopathy, how the alleged perpetrators act and react, and the reasons why they do things,” the volunteer victim advocate said. “A lot of times people don’t understand why other people do things but that’s a huge piece of what happens. There are a lot of questions brought up by clients and a lot of times they’ll go into the self-blaming situation. Now we can explain the science behind it and the actual facts behind it so that gives them a much broader idea of why it’s not their fault.”
The SAPR personnel and victim advocates on base are the on-the-ground advisors and advocates providing the help that Airmen need, but they’re also assisted by professors and researchers from the U.K. who share their findings and knowledge.
“Working with the Air Force has been a great experience,” said Dr. Dominic Willmott, a University of Huddersfield professor. “It’s good for us as academic researchers who are doing the leading research in this area to work together with people who are on the front lines, particularly in a U.S. military context. It’s good for us to see what’s going on in their world and equally to pass on the knowledge to the victim advocates and SAPR personnel.”
The support that Dr. Willmott and his colleagues provide to the support personnel is invaluable in understanding and supporting victims, and violence prevention efforts.
“Their research has supported what we have been thinking ourselves and how important it is to look at these issues with one lens and how important community is in our approach,” said a SAPR Coordinator.
“Victimology, offender dynamics, suicidal tendencies and interfamily abuse are all linked and it takes every one of our support agencies and the members of our community to eradicate these issues and help those who are affected.”
U.K. liaison’s speak about the worldview of SAPR related topics at RAF Lakenheath every other year, while U.S. Air Force SAPR officials from RAF Lakenheath speak at the University of Huddersfield annually to share the U.S. military perspective and lessons learned from sexual assault cases. These efforts keep the melding of ideas fresh and moving forward.
The tireless work of SAPR personnel, victim advocates and U.K. researchers helps prepare Airmen to provide assistance to any Airmen in need of help, and to keep the 48th Fighter Wing mission going year round.