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News | Sept. 26, 2022

Vermont National Guard scores high following review of sexual assault program

By Maj. Scott Detweiler Vermont National Guard

The Vermont National Guard Sexual Assault Prevention & Response Program has received a favorable assessment from a National Guard Bureau (NGB) Site Assessment Team.

The Team traveled to Vermont from Sept. 12-15 to examine Vermont National Guard policies, case management, prevention efforts and survivor support.

“Based on the recommendations of the Office of the Secretary of Defense’s Independent Review Commission accepted in September 2021, the NGB Sexual Assault Prevention & Response (SAPR) program is visiting each state to review their current policies and practices,” said U.S. Army Lt. Col. Aaron Cox, NGB SAPR assessment team leader. “Our review found that the Vermont National Guard’s program is on-point.”

The review of the Vermont National Guard SAPR program validates the progress made since the Organizational Assessment identified five SAPR specific recommendations in August 2021.

The recommendations included revising policies, updating leader training and sustaining the number of required SAPR collateral duty personnel.

“During our review it quickly became clear to us that the Vermont National Guard has the right people leading this program,” said Cox. “Ms. Nikki Sorrell, the sexual assault response coordinator is highly qualified. It is apparent how her wealth of experience enables her to provide outstanding support and advocacy for the survivors in this organization.”

This assessment team found some administrative and case management areas for improvement, such as the need for greater reporting of mandatory training in official systems of record. It also highlighted several best practices that NGB will consolidate and share with other states and territories.

The Vermont National Guard is one of a few states that report sexual assault and harassment case metrics to their state legislature annually. The SAPR program has evolved in Vermont since 2011. The program now includes three full-time personnel and over twenty collateral duty victim advocates trained through the National Organization of Victim Advocacy. Based on the results of the Independent Review Commission, the Vermont National Guard SAPR office will continue to implement programmatic improvements, such as instituting evidenced based primary prevention strategies to reduce the risk of interpersonal harm within the organization.

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