SCHRIEVER AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. --
The world is spinning.
Not in that slow, 24-hour daily rotation, imperceptible sense, but more like Dorothy in the tornado, losing the sense of reality, life out-of-control spin.
Need to stop it, need to find a focus point. Need someone to slow the rotation.
Make the call.
“Whenever they need us, we’re there,” Velnette Janes said.
Janes is one of Schriever’s victim advocates. Victim advocates are active-duty members or government civilians who volunteer to help sexual assault survivors cope with the aftermath of an assault. They ensure the victim’s needs are met as they navigate life through the reporting process.
“Volunteer victim advocates are essential components of the Sexual Assault Response and Prevention team,” said Cecilia Smith, Schriever sexual assault victim advocate. “Advocates ensure victims receive necessary care and support until the victim states otherwise.”
Janes, who has been paired with four victims since volunteering for the program in 2012, said she knew as early as basic training she wanted to volunteer. Experience prior to military service prepared her for the role.
“I’ve had friends and relatives in the past who have had to deal with this and I’ve been there for them,” she said. “I thought maybe I could do my part while I was here too, and try to stand up and help people.”
Victim advocates provide a wide range of support. Janes said she has accompanied victims to police and Office of Special Investigations interviews, attended court martials and been a confidant.
“(We’re) just being that person they can confide in and trust and lay whatever they want on you,” Janes said.
Through all the support, advocates are trying to help victims regain a sense of normalcy in their lives.
“I can give them advice, but we try to get them to start making their own decisions and start being more independent after the situation,” Janes said.
Providing that support can take an emotional toll on the victim advocate as well.
“It is a lot, emotionally, when you do have a victim,” she said. “I’ve had some tough situations where I’ve had to call in extra help.”
While the advocates have an on-call schedule for emergency situations, Smith and Paula Krause, Schriever Sexual Assault Response Coordinator, try to pair victims with advocates who might gel quickly.
“All of my victims have been placed with me because of our personalities and thinking they’d be better (served) with me,” Janes said.
Advocates don’t just sit around waiting to be paired with a victim. Advocates have monthly meetings, participate in team-building exercises and attend court martials as observers. Additionally, they man information booths and assist in the planning, preparation and execution of Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month and Child Abuse Prevention Month events throughout April.
Essentially, they advocate for the victim advocate program when they’re not providing victim support.
“Velnette is a dedicated volunteer victim advocate,” Smith said. “She’s loyal to the program and very dependable. She supports us and assists our office with the various base activities and events we hold.”
Janes said she would highly recommend volunteering for the program, providing people understand the toll it can take.
“It is very rewarding, but it obviously has its good and bad times,” she said. “Sometimes it’s really overwhelming. If you don’t have a stable life, really consider thinking it through because you still have to take care of yourself.
“If you are 100 percent sure you want to help somebody through this kind of stuff,” Janes continued. “Then I would definitely do it.”
The rewards far outweigh any negatives for Janes.
“(The best part is) just being that person they can have as a crutch for a little bit, or just to be there if they feel like they’re spinning out of control,” she said.