Meghan McAleer, NAS Patuxent River Sexual Assault and Response Coordinator (Courtesy photo by Dana Gan)

NAVAL AIR STATION PATUXENT RIVER, Md. – Meghan McAleer, NAS Patuxent River’s new Sexual Assault Response Coordinator, believes she did not seek the field she is working in, but rather the work found her.

While still in graduate school, during her time as a Master of Social Work intern at a local rape crisis center in New Jersey, McAleer provided mental health therapy for adults, families and children. There, she learned that interns were required to attend a 40-hour Confidential Sexual Violence Advocate training course, and eventually went on to become the Sexual Abuse and Assault Prevention program coordinator’s assistant. Following graduation in 2017, she became the program coordinator.

“I feel like I dived in headfirst, looking to know as much as I can, connect with as many folks, and really provide as much support and justice as we can to victims of such an egregious crime,” McAleer said.

While still in her field internship class, a local SARC from a nearby military base provided a presentation, and from that moment, McAleer knew she wanted to do her job someday.

“I knew I wanted to serve the military in some capacity since I come from a family of active duty and reservists, and what better way to do that than with the work I have the most passion for,” she said. “I knew after my interview [with Pax River representatives] that Pax was for me. I could hear the eagerness and friendliness through the phone and couldn’t wait to join the team.”

Possessing a bachelor’s degree in Psychology, with a minor in Public Health, plus a master’s degree from Monmouth University, McAleer has worked with victims of sexual violence, domestic violence, child abuse and human sex trafficking. She has educated people on a community and individual level as well as provided advocacy during investigations and forensic exams. Most recently, she is coming from a county-based domestic violence agency where she assisted child protection caseworkers in keeping non-offending parents and children safe during interview and investigation.

“I was honored to also accompany victims to court for civilian restraining order hearings and assist folks in how to prepare for filing and submitting their evidence,” she added. “I am excited to bring my prior knowledge here to Pax and am eager to learn this new facet of sexual violence work with the Navy.”

As the Pax River SARC, McAleer will work with a team to provide 24-hour response to victims of sexual violence by phone and in person, depending on the needs of the caller.

“Much of what I do requires collaboration between myself and command, tenant commands, security forces, installation first responders, FFSC staff, our chaplain, NCIS, JAG, Victim Legal Council, VWAP, and all entities that assist in helping folks who’ve experienced sexual violence,” she explained. “I’m also excited to partner with outside community agencies working in the anti-sexual violence movement.”

The SARC’s role is to be the subject matter expert in sexual violence intervention and prevention.

“On a micro level, this includes access to 24-hour response to survivors, educating them on their options and potentially walking side-by-side with them through the reporting process of their choice,” McAleer noted. “On the macro level, it is the SARC’s responsibility to manage the SAPR program, evaluate effectiveness, ensure data collection, attend case management, hire and train Unit Victim Advocates and establish community engagement. Additionally, the SARC is responsible for reviewing the SAPR Commanding Officer Toolkit with each command on base to acquaint leadership with the folks they can rely on for SAPR support.”

Since arriving onboard the air station in September, McAleer has completed the DoD Sexual Assault Advocate Certification Program, mental health first aid, and the mandatory training required of a DoD employee. She also acquainted herself with individuals she’ll partner with both on and off base.

McAleer says her heart is and always will be in her work, and she looks forward to being a contact for people to ask questions and a resource for commands and victim advocates, as well as a safe haven for those who’ve experienced sexual violence.

“I hope to bring light, energy and collaboration to the SAPR program,” she said. “I think it’s important for people to know I’m here to help. I have plans, required tasks and agendas; however, the survivors in victim status come first. I quite literally feel honored to help folks in some of their darkest hours and I never want anyone to feel alone. I think that genuinely comes across in every interaction I have, as I lean into the discomfort with them.”

McAleer’s office is located inside the Fleet and Family Support Center and her hours are 7:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday-Thursday, and 7:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Friday. . Meghan is available through the 24/7 Installation SARC Duty phone at (301) 580-8121 for SAPR related emergencies and inquiries. To schedule meetings during normal business hours, she can be reached in office at (301) 757-1867. Meghan is also available by email at Meghan.mcaleer@navy.mil.