PATRICK AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. --
“Someone close to me was drugged. She got separated from her friend and couldn’t contact her because of the drugs in her system. She was alone. She was sexually assaulted. I knew then that I wanted to make a difference.”
In a world of almost 8 billion people, it may be hard to see the effects that one person can have on another. To Staff Sgt. Jarrod Peterson, a sexual assault Victims Advocate for Patrick Air Force Base and Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, one person can contribute to a movement that affects an entire community.
“Since my earliest memories, I always tried to get something from each person I met,” recalled Peterson. “I wanted to learn from them. Once I got older, I started noticing that everyone had their own scars. Everyone seemed to be coping with something.”
Watching those around him dealt with their own challenges, Peterson developed the need to protect those he knew and those who couldn’t protect themselves. But he never imagined the person who needed him the most would be someone so close to him.
“It happened almost four years ago,” he said. “I was driving home to visit my family for the holidays. The night I got home, a close friend of mine who didn’t know I was coming, went out with one of her friends. She was drugged and sexually assaulted.”
Peterson began to see the scars that he noticed in everyone else, come to light in his friend after her sexual assault.
“I was one of two people she told,” he said. “After talking her through her hospital visit, counseling sessions and her struggle to interact with other people, I realized I had to do something. I could no longer be ignorant because I’d never experienced it.”
“I think it’s common for people to think that sexual assault won’t happen to them or the people they know,” said Peterson. “I became a Victims Advocate because I wanted to break a lot of the stigmas of sexual assault. Because it does happen to us, it does happen to the people we know. It can happen to anyone.”
“When I mentioned being a Victims Advocate to people around me, a new story always seemed to arise,” he said. “Friends, past coworkers, ex-girlfriends – a lot of them seemed to have had an experience with sexual assault. I realized this problem was far too prevalent.”
Peterson also mentioned that Victims Advocates, your Sexual Assault Response Coordinator, your friends and your family all have the power to influence people to get educated on sexual assault prevention.
“It can happen to anyone and anyone can stop it. It takes more than one person to make a change, it takes a community. We have to protect each other.” Peterson said.
To help protect your fellow Airmen, your family and your friends, you can get educated on sexual assault, being an active bystander or becoming a Victims Advocate at Patrick AFB.
“To be a Victims Advocate, you go through an application process,” said Laura Tasker, 45th Space Wing SARC. “You go through an interview with the SARC, background checks and several classes to help prepare you for the role you’re about to take on.”
Practicing an active bystander role is another way to protect those around you.
“For some, it can be challenging to balance being a Victims Advocate with the job they already have,” said Tasker. “If that’s the case, we urge you to still educate yourself and take on the role of an active bystander. An active bystander is anyone who can still be trusted to be there for those affected by sexual assault and encourage the victim to seek help through the SARC or a chaplain.”
For more information on sexual assault prevention and response or to volunteer as a Victims Advocate, go to your installation Sexual Assault Prevention and Response office, or visit https://www.patrick.af.mil/Units/Sexual-Assault-Prevention-and-Response-SAPR-Program/.