BARKSDALE AFB, LA (KSLA) - April is Sexual Assault Awareness month, across the country sexual assault survivors and advocates are encouraging victims to embrace their voice.
It's no different on Barksdale Air Force Base. April Frans oversees Barksdale's Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Program.
"Crime does not happen between the hours of 8 a.m. and 5 p.m., so we are available 24 hours a day. It doesn't matter if it happened off base, on base, if they (victims) report to the hospital and they identify as an airman the hospital is going to call our office to come."
In the Air Force, there are two types of reporting, restricted and unrestricted. Restricted reporting keeps the victim anonymous, allowing them to get medical help and counseling. Unrestricted allows for a criminal investigation to take place. It's the victim's decision as to which way to report the assault.
"If you look at statistics, most sexual assaults are occurring between the age of 18 and 24-year-olds, no different than in the civilian world," explained April Frans, "We are the first responders for sexual assault."
Frans works alongside a Sexual Assault Response Coordinator and 32 volunteer victim advocates.
"When you've sexually assaulted the offender takes everything from you," Frans said.
The Barksdale team is trained to help empower victims to not only come forward — but to take back control of their lives.
"They've been through trauma and a lot of people react to trauma totally different, so we're encouraging them to come forward so they know where they can go for help, as well as you know we want to hold the offenders accountable for their actions," Frans said. "But, we also want to let the victim know it's their choice, it is ultimately their choice."
The services are not limited to active duty airmen. Anyone in the service or their family members, if they're over the age of 18 can be helped.
"Take the next step come forward talk to an advocate, find out what's available but embrace your voice."
The SAPR program works closely with Project Celebration and other community agencies to ensure each victim gets the care they need.