By Alain M. Polynice, U.S. Army Medical Department Activity Bavaria Public Affairs Office
GRAFENWOEHR, Germany — Margie Mercado, a Sexual Assault Response Coordinator at U.S. Army Medical Department Activity Bavaria, was recently named as the United States Army Europe 2019 Exceptional Sexual Assault Response Coordinator of the Year.
Mercado has served as a SARC for MEDDAC Bavaria since July 2014, when she first began working for the organization.
As a nurse, this native from South Dakota began a career in advocacy — volunteering for the Family Advocate and Rape Crisis program in Baumholder, Germany back in 1985 when her husband was stationed there and served as a first sergeant.
Mercado has held various positions to include victim witness advocate for the U.S. Attorney’s Office, Eastern District of South Dakota, a clinical nurse with the U.S. Air Force, and interim SARC at Columbus Air Force Base, Mississippi.
“I am humbled,” Mercado said on being named USAREUR 2019 Exceptional SARC of the Year. “I know that no one earns an honor like this alone. I am fortunate to be a part of a great MEDDACB team.”
According to Heather M. O’Shea, USAREUR G1 Sexual Harassment and Assault Response and Prevention Program Manager, to be recognized for this honor, the individual must have current credentials and be serving in the position as a SARC. The individual’s command, either a supervisor or someone in their rating chain, submits a packet for consideration.
The point system they are scored on are based on categories that include: training and education, response, impact on unit, Army, Department of Defense, practices in support of victims, innovation and collaboration with first responders.
As MEDDAC Bavaria’s SARC, Mercado considers herself a team coach. She is responsible for data collection, sexual assault review boards, organizational training, and assignment of victims to victim advocates.
“Being a part of MEDDACB, I cover every clinic in Bavaria as the SARC, and the dental clinics as well,” Mercado said. “[SARCs] provide non-clinical support to victims of sexual assault and harassment and conduct SHARP training.”
Mercado is certified in the Department of Defense Sexual Assault Advocate Certification Program, which also makes her a victim advocate.
“After a reported sexual assault, either restricted or unrestricted, a SARC or a victim advocate serves as a battle buddy for the victim,” she explained. “We assist victims to locate and use the tools required to navigate through the healing process.”
Mercado points out that each victim is different, and their needs are different as well.
“The process is victim driven. There is no Garmin that can direct a victim from one point to another by the shortest route, alerting for speed traps and hazards,” she said. “As an advocate, our role is to be there to assist victims in locating the resources and to mobilize themselves to guide their own lives and recognize their potential in healing.”
Working with her victim advocates, Mercado facilitates victim care by coordinating medical treatment, including emergency care, Sexual Assault Medical Forensic Examiner exams, Special Victim Services referrals, and tracking the services provided to victims of sexual assault from initial report through final disposition and resolution.
“This allows my commander to focus on providing health care services to installations in Bavaria and the overall mission, all while knowing I will not leave a victim without care,” Mercado added.
The hardest part of her job as a SARC is understanding why in 2019 sexual assault, sexual harassment still continues in the military.
“Some things just haven’t changed, the majority of victims continue to be new to Germany, new to the military, junior enlisted, and the involvement of alcohol,” Mercado said. “We talk about the military being family — I was not raised, either at home or in the military, to treat others with such disrespect as to sexually assault or harass a brother or a sister. We stuck up for each other.”
Mercado wants victims of a sexual assault to know they are not to blame. They have become a victim of a violent crime, not the person responsible.
“Our goal is to assist victims to connect with resources to guide them through recovery,” she concludes. “If you have a voice, use it. If you have legs, stand up. If you have feet, step up. If you have a friend, stay together and stick up for each other.”
For more on the Sexual Harassment and Assault Response and Prevention program, and your SHARP resources, visit the SHARP page. The 24-hour Sexual Assault Hotline number is DSN 314-569-4567, CIV 06941-70-569-4567.