Airman's personal story motivates him as victim advocate
Story by Stephanie Beougher, Ohio National Guard Public Affairs
COLUMBUS, Ohio (04/21/21)
After a loved one was sexually assaulted by a stranger, Senior Master Sgt. Jacob Bridges felt motived to be part of a culture shift to help educate others and work to prevent it. Bridges started by volunteering as a facilitator for the Green Dot violence prevention training program at the Ohio Air National Guard’s 121st Air Refueling Wing in Columbus.
“I had a belief that the impact I can have is altering the behaviors of a person or change the culture of an environment that otherwise was conducive for a predator to commit such acts,” Bridges said.
In February 2020, Bridges volunteered to become a victim advocate for the wing’s Sexual Assault Prevention & Response (SAPR) program, where he helps survivors access health care, victim advocacy and legal services.
In February 2020, Bridges volunteered to become a victim advocate for the wing’s Sexual Assault Prevention & Response (SAPR) program, where he helps survivors access health care, victim advocacy and legal services. He also educates his fellow Airmen about the reporting process and reassures them there is a safe, confidential environment to turn to for help.
“Senior Master Sgt. Bridges’ ability to stay professional, informed and empathetic toward victims’ needs is unparalleled and has impressed me so much that I myself have even leaned on him for help at times,” said Vicki Shotto, the sexual assault response coordinator at the 121st. “His enthusiasm and his skills to be a dedicated team player truly reflects his abilities to not only be a great victim advocate but also a great leader. It’s evident that his dedication isn’t just a duty, but also a passion.”
Bridges called on every service member to play a role in the SAPR program in order to change the culture.
“I encourage our service members to reach out to SAPR leaders, invite them to your commander calls or roll calls. Gain a mutual understanding of what occurs and who is involved in the program. The result is a culture of awareness that gives all parties a good pulse of the environment and a level of comfort knowing what happens to them or someone they know who comes forward, reporting a sexual assault,” he said.
Bridges and other victim advocates strive to create a respectful and safe environment for Ohio National Guard Airmen and Soldiers.