The United States Air Force has named Cindy Graver at Robins Air Force Base their Sexual Assault Response Coordinator of the Year.
You might not have even realized that position exists, and it didn't until relatively recently.
The military has been rocked by a string of sexual assault scandals since the 1990s.
Graver founded her office at Robins in 2005 with a staff of two, herself included. Now it's up to five, and Graver is confident they are beginning to change the culture on base.
“When people who have been sexually assaulted feel that they are ready to receive help and care, they can come into our office and we’re able to provide advocacy services for them,” Graver said.
Graver’s office connects victims to medical and spiritual care as well as legal services.
There have been 102 reports of sexual assault at Robins, Graver said, between her arrival and last week when her office held an event called “Walk a Mile in Their Shoes.”
“We had helmets on stands and these helmets represented each person that had made a report of a sexual assault since this program’s inception,” she said.
The event was part of Sexual Assault Awareness Month in April.
Sexual assault in the military has been a hot topic in recent months, with Congress holding contentious hearings on the issue in Washington.
The attention is not an indication that the problem is getting worse, but rather that it’s coming out of the closet, Graver said.
“I’m very happy and very hopeful that because people are reporting, that means that people are feeling comfortable talking to their leadership,” she said.
“They’re feeling comfortable coming forward because they feel that something is going to be done about it.”