Advocates lend their voices to sexual assault and harassment victims

By Denise CaskeyApril 3, 2023

The Sexual Harassment/Assault Response and Prevention victim advocate at Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall and the Sexual Assault Response Coordinator at the Pentagon reminds victims they have someone in their corner who can help them through difficult times and that they should never be afraid to come forward. (U.S. Air Force illustration by Staff Sgt. Sarah Denewellis)
The Sexual Harassment/Assault Response and Prevention victim advocate at Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall and the Sexual Assault Response Coordinator at the Pentagon reminds victims they have someone in their corner who can help them through difficult times and that they should never be afraid to come forward. (U.S. Air Force illustration by Staff Sgt. Sarah Denewellis) (Photo Credit: U.S. Army) VIEW ORIGINAL

JOINT BASE MYER-HENDERSON HALL, Va. - The military is a community coming together for a singular purpose, so when one community member experiences sexual assault and harassment, it can lower the morale and cohesion of the entire community – making it harder to fulfill its mission.

Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, on his first day in office, addressed the issue of sexual assault in the military by saying, “I take the issue of sexual assault very, very seriously. We’ve been working at this for a long time in earnest, but we haven’t gotten it right. In my commitment to our Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Marines and dependents, we’re going to do everything in our power to get it right.”

To address the issue of sexual assault and harassment, the Department of Defense immediately began implementing some of the 80 recommendations laid out in a 2021 Independent Review Commission on sexual assault in the Military.

The National Sexual Violence Resource Center estimates that in 2018 only around 25 percent of sexual assaults were reported to police. According to the report, victims often don’t report the assault out of fear of reprisal or retaliation or because they’re embarrassed or ashamed.

Londia Goodine, Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall SHARP Victim Advocate
Londia Goodine, Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall SHARP Victim Advocate (Photo Credit: U.S. Army) VIEW ORIGINAL

“It’s difficult when you have been sexually assaulted, or you’re getting harassed, and you have to tell your boss about it,” said Londia Goodine, Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall Sexual Harassment/Assault Response and Prevention victim advocate. “It’s so personal and humiliating. You don’t know how it’s going to be perceived.”

Coming forward can be a difficult decision, but for those who decide to report their assault, the JBM-HH SHARP victim advocate and the Sexual Assault Response Coordinator at the Pentagon can offer guidance and support.

“The victim advocate supports the victim from the time that the trauma happens,” Goodine said. “We are the response people, able to meet the victim anywhere to support them when they disclose that they have been sexually harassed or sexually assaulted. We give them the resources, referrals and support they need. We also support them through the legal process.”

Goodine is new to her position at JBM-HH, but she is not new to dealing with individuals in crisis. Before coming to JBM-HH, Goodine worked with children in a crisis center in St. Louis.

“I chose to be in the field because I like helping get people through the process of healing and assisting them with resources and referrals,” Goodine said. “I’m an advocate so I get to be their voice, and that is super empowering to see them go from me being their voice to them gaining their voice and their thoughts and regaining their independence and their sense of freedom and joy.”

Pentagon SARC Army Master Sgt. Amaka Anderson
Pentagon SARC Army Master Sgt. Amaka Anderson (Photo Credit: U.S. Army) VIEW ORIGINAL

As a survivor of sexual assault, Army Master Sgt. Amaka Anderson, a SARC at the Pentagon, uses her insight into what victims go through to educate command on how they should view the situation, and she agrees with Goodine.

“It gives me a sense of fulfillment helping others through the process,” Anderson said. “It’s seeing the victim bounce back through their recovery and healing process from all the trauma and backlash of what happened. I think that’s the best feeling ever – to see someone go through that and come out on the other side.”

The victim is the main priority of the victim advocate, but beyond assisting and supporting victims, Goodine’s job also includes community outreach and providing support for SARC.

“We have to know who’s at the crisis centers, who’s at the hospitals and make sure they know that we are here and that we are available for them,” Goodine said.

As a SARC, Anderson shares some of the victim advocate responsibilities, but her daily duties also include informing command about how victims who filed unrestricted reports are progressing through the healing process, providing guidance to command and the victim advocate on dealing with Soldiers and providing training to leaders and supervisors who then train the rest of the force.

“The Army has made a big shift in regard to reprisal,” Anderson said. “That’s the reason the commanders and supervisors are given training. They want the victims to know that reprisal will be handled so they don’t have to be fearful of coming forward.”

Sexual assault and sexual harassment are often deeply personal experiences, Goodine said. For victims, just knowing there is someone who will be their voice and advocate for them can ease some of the emotional burden.

“We can also act as a third party,” Anderson added. “If somebody wanted us to go in and address something that’s going on, and they didn’t want to go in directly, we can address the situation for them.”

The SARC and the SHARP victim advocates work hand-in-hand with the command, Goodine said, and it’s important for victims to know that the command cares about them and wants to help.

Bringing an end to the scourge of sexual assault in the military is a top priority for everyone from the Secretary of Defense to garrison command. To that end, in April during Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month, JBM-HH Commander David Bowling and the rest of the command team will sign a proclamation pledging to end sexual assault and harassment on the base.

The JBM-HH SHARP office and the Department of Defense offer several points of contact available around the clock. The DoD Safe 24-hour helpline 24/7 is 877-995-5247 and can be accessed by visiting https://safehelpline.org. To reach JBM-HH SHARP/Pentagon 24-hour Helpline, call or text 202-498-4009.