SANTA RITA, Guam (April 13, 2022) – Each year the month of April is recognized as Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month (SAAPM), which is an annual campaign to raise public awareness about sexual assault and educate communities and individuals on how to prevent sexual violence.
While the month is dedicated to sexual assault awareness and prevention, U.S. Naval Base Guam’s (NBG) Sexual Assault Prevention and Response (SAPR) Office works year round and around the clock to highlight awareness.
“SAAPM is significant because it brings awareness to the fact that sexual violence happens, can be prevented in some ways, and it also reminds people that there are resources available for victims,” said NBG Sexual Assault Response Coordinator (SARC) Cristine Pervez-Cruz. “While the education, prevention, and response measures are practiced throughout the year, SAAPM is a time to highlight our office’s capabilities by increasing our training opportunities and being more visible throughout the community whether it’s at outreaches at the NEX or seeing a SAPR banner along the road.”
The NBG SAPR office provides support 24 hours a day, seven days a week, responding to victims of sexual assault, specifically active duty service members, dependents over the age of 18, National Guard and Reservists, and Department of Defense (DoD) civilians and contractors who are assaulted on areas that are under Department of the Navy jurisdiction.
In fiscal year 2020, the Department of Defense received 7,816 reports of sexual assault involving Service members according to the DoD Annual Report on Sexual Assault in the Military.
“My role as a Sexual Assault Response Coordinator is to provide overall management of sexual assault awareness, prevention, training, and victim advocacy,” Pervez-Cruz said. “Also, I ensure that all services respond appropriately to victims’ needs and that all necessary services and responders are involved.”
Pervez-Cruz has been with NBG for the past nine years. She is passionate about her role and works diligently to listen to victims’ stories, establish a rapport, and empower those she encounters for their healing.
“I acquired all my advocacy experience working as a victim advocate at Guam Attorney General's office,” Pervez-Cruz said. “Working there, I assisted all victims of crimes and although my focus working for the Navy is to assist victims of sexual assault, I am still well-informed of the various victim service providers on Guam and continue to be that link between both military and local communities.”
Mariana Duenas has been the NBG SAPR Civilian Victim Advocate for more than one year. She previously worked at the office of the Attorney General of Guam.
“I provide 24/7 support for a victims’ immediate needs – I assess safety concerns, provide reporting options, provide information on available resources, and I facilitate referrals,” Duenas said. “I serve as an advocate for the expressed interests of victims with all intervening agencies to include law enforcement, medical, and legal (support).”
Duenas explained that because of the sensitive nature of circumstances, victim advocacy requires empathy, professionalism, and patience.
“I have a passion for social justice and this job just fits,” Duenas said.
Lt. James Wu Zhu has been a Navy Judge Advocate General for the past seven years, and has served as the NBG Victims’ Legal Counsel for the past two years.
“I provide confidential legal advice to victims of sexual assault and domestic abuse,” Wu Zhu said. “I see clients at every stage of the process and regardless of whether they have reported or what type of report they make. I also provide legal advocacy on behalf of my clients who have unrestricted reports to commands, law enforcement, and prosecutors.”
In addition to the SAPR office’s team of three, there are approximately 60 certified Victims’ Advocates from NBG and various tenant commands.
“Potential Victim Advocates must have a desire to want to help people,” Duenas said. “They will be interviewed to see if they are qualified to volunteer, then take a 40-hour SAPR Training Course. Upon completion, they will submit their application for certification.”
Collectively, the NBG SAPR team recognizes the crucial role that everyone plays in the prevention of sexual assault.
“Our roles are by no means easy, but helping people is the most rewarding part of our jobs,” Pervez-Cruz said. “Sexual assault is one of the most difficult situations an individual can go through in their life and we’re here to see them through it and be there for them.”
The NBG SAPR Office is located in Bldg. 4. To reach the SARC, call (671) 339-2145 or (671) 483-7129. To reach the Civilian Victim Advocate, call (671) 339-2654 or (671) 483-7096. To reach the 24/7 on-call duty Victim Advocate, call 488-0514.