By Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Richard J. Stevens, Navy Public Affairs Support Element, Norfolk
April 9, 2010 - NORFOLK (NNS) -- A sexual assault and response coordinator (SARC) stationed in Naples, Italy, will be named the 2009 Exceptional SARC of the Year in a ceremony held at the Pentagon Hall of Heroes in Washington, D.C., April 9. Vicki L. Shepherd, an Air Force veteran, oversees the education, intervention, training, advocacy and data collection for sexual assault in the Naples, Italy, region.
"It's the highlight of my career to be acknowledged for something that I am truly passionate about," said Shepherd. "This program will evolve. We're not going to stand aside and continue to let sexual assaults happen. We're going to educate our bystanders, and we're going to have even better training for victim advocates."
To align with the Department of the Navy's newly established Sexual Assault Prevention and Response (SAPR) Office, the former Sexual Assault Victim Intervention (SAVI) program was officially renamed the SAPR program in November 2009.
Rear Adm. Michael Browne, director of personal readiness and community support, said there are many reasons to bring awareness to this program and the issues it's designed to address.
"This program is critically important to the Navy and Marine Corps team, ultimately because it's a mission readiness issue for our forces, but more importantly a personal issue," said Browne. "First of all, sexual assault is a crime. Secondly, it's completely contrary to our core values of honor, courage and commitment."
"Although the Department of the Navy is seeing a name change from what we have known since 1994, SAVI to SAPR - it's time for change," said Shepherd. "Don't take it as an insult. We're not trying to stamp out what the Navy has always been about. We can take personal ownership for the acronym SAPR; we can become socially aware and personally responsible. We can put that information out there to help the community make the change. But we can still be 'savvy' about it."
Shepherd's role in the program is to contact the victim on a daily or a weekly basis, providing updates to their case and assisting them with interviews with Naval Criminal Investigative Service or other investigative agencies. Shepherd explained that in some cases the process can be very thorough.
"We're able to see victims succeed," said Shepherd. "They're able to regain something that was taken from them."
The goals of the SAPR program are to promote sensitive, coordinated and effective management of sexual assault cases, to reduce the incidence of sexual assault through awareness and prevention education and to standardize reporting of sexual assaults.