Photo Information

A Marine at the Marine Corps Logistics Base Barstow holding a pad that says "Thank you for believing me." The pad also has the Department of Defense's Safe Helpline contact info. This was in support of Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month.

Photo by Kristyn Galvan

Courage to Speak Up

30 Apr 2024 | Marine Corps Logistics Base Barstow

Collaborating this month for Child Abuse and Sexual Assault
Prevention month, Marine Corps Logistics Base Barstow’s
Behavioral Health Family Advocacy Program and Sexual
Assault Prevent and Response Program brought in two guest
speakers to share their experiences with forty Marines and civilian
personnel at the Maj. Gen. James L. Day conference center on
base, April 17. Also supporting the effort were MCLB Barstow’s
Sexual Assault Response Coordinator, Suzanna Weston and SAPR
Uniformed Victim Advocate, Gunnery Sgt. Richard McGriff.

Ami M.S. Davis, originally from the High Desert, traveled
from San Diego to share their history of child abuse, sexual assault
and trauma, as well as prevention and self-care.

“We often misuse the term ‘trauma’; it doesn't always occur
due to stress, because stress can be positive. Positive and tolerable
stress create resilience. Toxic stress creates trauma,” Davis
explains, before guiding the group through designing an imaginary
unicorn. The exercise activates the pre-frontal cortex, a portion
of the brain responsible for emotional regulation and is often
underdeveloped in child abuse victims.

“Taking care of yourself can prevent you from potentially
harming others. We have a lot of influence on the people around
us. We aren’t thinkers, we are feelers who like to think that we
think,” continued Davis. “Asking ‘what’s wrong’ implies there is
something wrong with someone. Instead, actively, intentionally
connect with people. Ask ‘what’s going on, what’s happening with
you?’ Give them the coping skills, because trauma changes the
way that you behave.”

Also traveling from within California, second guest speaker
Jane shared the tragic story of her sexual assault as a child, and the
strange lack of reaction from her father whom she immediately
told afterwards. She also noted her parents’ refusal to discuss the
SA further with her, until she intentionally went to them later
asking for details.

“I’ll never be okay with myself if I don’t do everything in my
power to deal with this,” Jane explained to her initially hesitant
father who had been a Marine, when she made the difficult
decision to sue her assaulter “Until I go through this all the way,
it’s going to be like a 50-pound backpack I have to carry around all
the time and I don’t want to do that.”

Jane won her suit without seeing or talking to her assaulter, but
it was not about money, it was about healing and being brave.

“A spiritual warrior is someone who steps into
vulnerability. True bravery is being scared, but not turning
that off, not turning into a rock, and doing it anyway,” she
said. “I will be completely out of control, I will surrender. I
will step into vulnerability. That is a warrior.”

“I hope that the guest speakers empowered Marines
and the community at large to report child abuse and sexual
assault and to seek out support and services so that they can
make informed decisions on their care,” said Michelle Adams,
Behavioral Health office manager, Family Advocacy Program
Prevention and Education Specialist, and Victim Advocate. “We
want to create a community that doesn’t fear abuse, but instead
addresses it head-on by speaking out and taking a stand to bring
sexual assault to the forefront and hold abusers accountable.”

“The wonderful thing about the SAPR Program and its
reporting options is that the victim is always in control of
the process,” Weston said, MCLB Barstow’s SARC, who has
been a SA victim advocate for the Marine Corps for more than
a decade. “Next steps will vary widely, based on the type of
report, jurisdiction, and follow-on investigation and adjudication.
However, the goal is always to serve the needs of the victim in the

“Sexual assault is the most underreported crime,” said Weston.
“The SAPR program encourages reporting, both restricted and
unrestricted, to serve the needs of the victim and the interest of the
Marine Corps. It is vital the victims understand that they are never
to blame and that they are never alone. SAPR offers a variety of
reporting options and resource to ensure that each and every victim
is served and empowered.”

On a payback tour working within BH, McGriff has a passion
for helping others and has been the SAPR UVA for more than a
year. He proposed a multi-faceted approach to address the large
number of unreported sexual assaults.

“Create a safe environment. Education and training.
Accountability. Leadership involvement.” And finally, “Consult
your SAPR. Your SAPR is here to help and has the connection
to those who can help when they don’t have the capacity. Use
them, use them, use them," said McGriff.

“It’s courageous to speak up about such a difficult experience.
Reporting can help you seek justice, support others and start the
healing process. Your voice matters and you deserve to be heard
and supported. Semper Fi,” said Gunnery Sgt. McGriff.

“It is important to realize that not only during the month of
April is this an important topic to address,” Adams concluded,
“but every day throughout the year it is important to stand up and
come together as one team and one fight against abuse.”

For those who wish to make a report of a sexual assault, or
even just speak with a confidential resource about options,
help is always available via the MCLBB 24/7 Sexual Assault
Support Line at 760-577-6036. Additional resources are also
available by calling the DoD Safe Helpline at (877) 995-5247.

BH Main Line at: 760-577-6533

24/7 Support Line for SAPR at 760-577-6036

FAP 24/7 Helpline for Domestic and Child Abuse at: 760-577-

To respect the anonymity of the second guest speaker, she is
referred to as “Jane” throughout this article.