The Coast Guard is working to create a culture where our entire workforce understands sexual assault is a crime and will tolerate nothing short of respect for their fellow shipmates. As shipmates, each and every person in the Coast Guard has a shared responsibility to make this change. In honor of Sexual Assault Awareness Month, Compass would like to recognize one shipmate who is serving as a tireless advocate for all servicemembers.
Magnus Graham has devoted more than 30 years to the Air Force and Coast Guard and is ensuring the health and resiliency of servicemembers as he fights on the front lines against the crime of sexual assault.
Graham began his Coast Guard career in 2005 following more than 24 years of active duty in the Air Force and currently serves as an employee assistance program coordinator, where he is responsible for programs such as suicide prevention, sexual assault, workplace violence and traumatic stress.
While the work he does in each of these areas helps countless members each day, it is his work with sexual assault prevention and response where he has stood out. Graham was recently recognized for his role in sexual assault prevention and response as the Department of Defense’s Exceptional Sexual Assault Response Coordinator for the Coast Guard.
As the 5th Coast Guard District sexual assault response coordinator, he provides case management for survivors of sexual assault, coordinates a district-wide 24-hour response of trained victim advocates and provides supervision and consultation to the advocates throughout the region.
His strength comes from his experience. His career in the Air Force was diverse, allowing him to encounter many aspects of the military. Midway through his career he changed gears and focused on the behavioral science arena, cross training into the social actions field where he became an addictions counselor. It was here, he said, while working with those in crises, he was able to build the foundation of knowledge on helping those who are in need.
His military career continued to move ahead and he merged into the mental health arena, eventually became superintendent of mental health, family advocacy and the substance abuse clinics at bases where he was stationed. He continued his tireless advocacy for the welfare of all servicemembers and as superintendent, was able to reach out to those who were impacted by domestic violence and abuse and established the framework for response to survivor’s needs.
In his current role, he is responsible for supporting more than 100 Coast Guard units throughout Maryland, Virginia and North Carolina. While this is a daunting task, he knows from his previous experiences he can depend on strong partnerships with local organizations.
Since his arrival in 2005, he has built strong relationships with staff at the Portsmouth Naval Hospital. The alliances formed have ensured follow-thorough and minimized disruptions in medical service for Coast Guard members requiring care.
He focused many of his efforts on developing effective training for his victim advocates, including extensive discussions with key experts. He invited forensic healthcare coordinators from Naval Medical Center Portsmouth, Coast Guard Investigative Service agents and representatives from Coast Guard legal.
To increase awareness for victim advocates, he leveraged his relationship with the hospital and also coordinated with the Navy forensic healthcare coordinator to provide tours of the emergency room and sexual assault forensic examination room at the naval hospital. This intensive training helped the region’s victim advocates to better identify, react and follow up with survivors of sexual assault.
In addition, Graham is a member of the local Joint Military Sexual Assault Response Committee working group. Through extensive collaboration, this body conceived, formulated and implemented a plan to raise awareness about sexual assault throughout the entire military and civilian community.
The job is not without barriers, however. Graham said his biggest challenge is providing a consistent response to every shipmate. His units are spread out over three states, making it a challenge to reach out to every single member.
“For example, here in the Tidewater area, there are a number of resources to draw off of; however, in some of our remote locations the options are limited,” said Graham. “Having trained victim advocates to assist in these areas is the number one priority.”
Graham hopes by ensuring a process is in place, a survivor will be treated in a supportive manner, ultimately allowing more survivors to come forward and get the help they need and deserve.
“I also believe that training commands on the sexual assault prevention and response program is vital to creating a culture of prevention and sending the message that we all have a role in prevention,” said Graham. “Bystander intervention is the key component.”
Being a bystander to Graham means not standing by when a shipmate is in need or refusing to serve in silence with someone who has committed a crime against another.
“My philosophy to reaching out to the servicemembers and their families is simple – by any means possible, provide a compassionate non-judgmental response to survivors to help aid in their recovery process.”