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DOD Renames Award to Honor Late Sexual Assault Response Coordinator

May 19, 2020 , DOD News

The Defense Department has renamed its award recognizing exceptional sexual assault response coordinators in honor of Elizabeth "Liz" Blanc, who died in March after a long battle with cancer.

"Renaming this award is a small way to honor Liz's immeasurable impact to the Department of Defense," Dr. Nathan Galbreath, acting director of DOD's Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office, said. "She tirelessly worked to assist victims of sexual assault, even up to a few days before her passing. She was a consummate professional and one of the most highly skilled advocates with whom I've ever worked."

Portrait of a woman.
Elizabeth Blanc
The Defense Department has renamed its award for the department’s outstanding sexual assault response coordinators in honor of Elizabeth “Liz” Blanc, who died in March after a long battle with cancer. Blanc had served as a SARC, and at the time of her death in March 2020, had been the program manager for the Safe HelpLine program in DOD’s Sexual Assault Response and Prevention Office for four years.
Photo By: DOD
VIRIN: 200519-D-ZZ999-0519

Blanc, 39, graduated from Boston University with a bachelor's degree in psychology and later received a master's degree in psychology from Walden University. From there, she dedicated 15 years to the sexual assault prevention and response field. Her service included supporting sexual assault victims as a sexual assault response coordinator for the Navy Department for nine years.

SARCs play a pivotal role in the department's sexual assault prevention and response program. When any service member reports a sexual assault, the SARC addresses the victim's immediate safety needs, connects the victim to recovery-oriented resources and assigns a victim advocate to provide advocacy and assistance throughout the medical, investigative and legal processes.

Her legacy will live on with her family, the many survivors she has helped, and the professionals in the field who strive to uphold the same high standards of assistance and professionalism that she did."
Dr. Nathan Galbreath, acting director, DOD Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office

In addition, SARCs work closely with other installation responders, train thousands of military members annually and help military leaders improve their support of service members impacted by sexual assault.

In 2016, Blanc joined SAPRO as a program manager for the Safe HelpLine program — the Defense Department's sole 24/7 anonymous hotline for members of the DOD community affected by sexual assault. People who wish to contact Safe Helpline can call 877-995-5247 or visit its website. In 2019, Blanc became SAPRO's senior victim assistance advisor, overseeing all victim assistance programs for the department.

DOD Graphic
Safe HelpLine
Safe HelpLine is the Defense Department’s sole 24/7 anonymous hotline for members of the DOD community affected by sexual assault.
Photo By: DOD Graphic
VIRIN: 190208-F-AF000-0001

"I have known Liz since she began at SAPRO in 2016, and have always been impressed with her talent and her commitment. She was a reflection of everything we stood for as an organization, and I can say there will never be another that could fill her shoes. This department has lost such an amazing soul," Dr. Elizabeth P. Van Winkle, executive director of DOD's Office of Force Resiliency, observed in a message to colleagues upon learning of Blanc's passing.

Blanc is survived by her husband and two young sons.

"While this award has been around for several years, it takes on an even more special meaning now that it is named after Liz," Galbreath said. "Her legacy will live on with her family, the many survivors she has helped, and the professionals in the field who strive to uphold the same high standards of assistance and professionalism that she did." 

DOD has recognized six SARCs for this year's honor, now known as the "Liz Blanc Exceptional SARC of the Year Award." The 2020 Liz Blanc Exceptional SARC of the Year are:

1
Air Force: 1st Lt. Sarah L. Halterman, 60th Air Mobility Wing, Travis Air Force Base, California;
2
Army: Sgt. 1st Class Maria C. Rivera, I Corps & Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington;
3
Coast Guard: Shannon Norenberg, U.S. Coast Guard Academy;
4
Navy: Raquel Hernandez, Naval Air Station Lemoore, California;
5
Marine Corps: Shirley D. Stephens, Marine Corps Installations Pacific, Marine Corps Base Camp Butler, Japan; and
6
National Guard Bureau: Jacquelyn E. Tellier 102nd Intelligence Wing, Otis Air National Guard Base, Massachusetts.