WASHINGTON (AFPS, April 4, 2013) -- The Defense Department is honoring six sexual assault response coordinators this month for their outstanding efforts in assisting victims of sexual assault and for their commitment to preventing this crime.

Led by Army Maj. Gen. Gary S. Patton, director of the Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office, DOD officials considered the efforts of more than 1,000 qualified sexual assault response coordinators , or SARCs, from each military service and the National Guard Bureau before selecting their "Exceptional SARCs of the Year," as part of National Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month.

"I am privileged to work with such dedicated individuals who continue to strengthen the department's prevention and response efforts," Patton said in a statement. "The 2013 exceptional SARCs deserve recognition for their service on the front lines and for the quality care they provide for survivors of sexual assault. I am honored to acknowledge their accomplishments and commitment to victims of sexual assault."

Since 2009, the Defense Department annually has recognized exceptional SARCs for providing noteworthy care and support in prevention and response efforts to military victims of sexual assault.

A SARC serves as the single point of contact for integrating and coordinating sexual assault victim care, from the initial report of sexual assault through disposition and resolution of issues related to the victim's health and well-being.

The SARC is responsible for ensuring a victim support system is in place that provides around-the-clock sexual assault response capabilities for all victims within their designated area of responsibility.

This year's honorees are:

-- Army Sgt. 1st Class Josalette Simmons, Fort Bragg, N.C.

-- Kathleen Schofield, Naval Air Station Whidbey Island, Wash.

-- Marine Corps Maj. Robyn Mestemacher, 1st Marine Expeditionary Force

-- Janaee Stone, Hill Air Force Base, Utah

-- Army Capt. Jennifer Hunt, National Guard Joint Force Headquarters, Fla.

-- Kristin Cox, Coast Guard District 13

"It is truly an honor to receive this recognition; however, it is an even greater honor to work with exceptional SARCs, victim advocates and SAPR program managers across all 50 states and services," Hunt said. "All services have made great strides over the course of the last several years, but there is still work left to be done in order to achieve the cultural change necessary to prevent sexual assault."

Hunt urged a "greater understanding of victimology" and offender dynamics, moving past the error of blaming victims and ensuring offenders are held accountable for their crimes.

"This cannot be accomplished without engaged leadership at every level," she said. "I have been very fortunate to find that committed leadership in the Florida National Guard and [National Guard Bureau] command teams."

Stone, who spent 12 years in the Navy and has served in her position at Hill Air Force Base for four years, said she was "extremely excited" to have been selected, but that she remains focused on helping victims.

"It's something that I really wasn't expecting," she said. "This is not why I do this at all. Being active duty Navy and working the [sexual assault victim intervention] program for many years -- it's my passion."

Each sexual assault victim is different, Stone said, so it is important to provide them all the support and resources available.

"I think it's more just hoping that you can give them the best resources, because no victim is ever going to look the same," she said.

So the resources required for one victim, Stone said, may be totally different for someone else. "It's so important that each one gets the best resource," she said.

The former Sailor also credited her team at Hill Air Force Base for their program's success, calling her victim advocates "the backbone of our program."

"I honestly believe the reason that our program is so successful is because of the victim advocates that I have in place," Stone said.