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Breaking the Silence: How Scott's SAPR Program Supports Sexual Assault Survivors

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Madeline Baisey
  • 375th Air Mobility Wing Public Affairs

The primary mission of the Sexual Assault Prevention and Response program is to support victims of both sexual assault and forms of sexual harassment.

While not leaning heavily into the legal aspects that could accompany a Sexual Assault case, the program is designed to be “victim-centric”,

as Ms. Pamela Dorsey, Sexual Assault Response Coordinator of the program on Scott Air Force Base puts it, focusing on providing various resources such as mental health services, medical care, and advocacy while maintaining confidentiality.

The program aims to help victims navigate the aftermath of their trauma, offering support regardless of the status of investigations or other external factors.

Since starting her career in the U.S. Air Force in 1979 and retiring in 2005 as a Chief Master Sgt., and beginning her career as a SARC that same year at Scott, Pamela Dorsey considers one of her biggest gratifications to be seeing people begin the journey of recovery after experiencing a trauma.

“It is a privilege to be given the opportunity to walk alongside them,” Dorsey explains.

A primary goal of the SAPR program is education and prevention. The program seeks to change behaviors that lead to sexual assault by raising awareness and educating personnel about the definitions and implications of sexual harassment and assault. This education is aimed at all levels of installation personnel, ensuring everyone understands how to recognize and intervene in potential situations of harassment or assault no matter their rank or status.

Taking a preventative focus rather than a reactive focus leads the team at Scott, which currently includes Dorsey and 2 full time advocates, to pursue awareness events all year, especially emphasizing during Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention month in April. These events include a “What were you wearing” event in the base’s dining facility, 5k’s, and more to get peoples stories out to those who may relate, or to people who do not know what their resources are. Dorsey wants the programs to break down the discomfort of talking about SA in the military.

".. to create a space, a culture, where not only is the topic talked about without discomfort, but people feel more comfortable being able to go sit somewhere or refer someone to somewhere to get help."

The day-to-day operations of the SAPR program involve a range of activities, from managing cases and providing oversight to ensuring compliance with numerous administrative and procedural requirements set by Congress and the Department of Defense. The program manager's role is to maintain these standards and keep leadership informed, ensuring legal compliance and readiness for inspections.

Dorsey speaks on how the program has evolved in her 19 years on the job. Sexual assault went from a hushed topic, where commanders didn’t want cases to represent their status as a leader, to leadership pursing awareness and funding the program. However despite the advancements the program has made, there is still a stigma surrounding their mission, one that individuals like Dorsey aim to combat.

"It's taken years to create trust in this program because so many people hear about horror stories where people weren't supported."

The long-term goals of the SAPR program include increasing unit-level engagement and increasing interaction with personnel to foster a culture where discussions about sexual assault are normalized. The program aims to create substantial behavioral changes and establish a safe environment where victims are eager to seek help and support, rather than fearing the consequences.

"The reality of it is, there are victims in your unit right now that you don't know about," explains Dorsey to try and paint a picture about the statics of sexual assault. Though the program itself has become more popular and well structured, it does not necessarily correlate to people being willing to share their stories as trauma from these events have not gotten easier to process.

"Recovery from that event does not really happen until you get the support needed to walk through it, and that's what the SAPR program is here for."

For more information on SAPR in the Air Force:

SAPR (af.mil)