|YWCA now looking for program volunteers|
|Written by Amanda Curry, Daily Vidette Senior Staff|
|Thursday, 21 January 2010 00:07|
The YWCA’s sexual assault program, Stepping Stones, is currently looking for volunteers to provide phone counseling, medical and legal advocacy and crisis support for sexual assault survivors and their families.
“Sexual violence is a problem in every community, and it is important that the community develop a positive and supportive response,” Gail Trimpe-Morrow, counselor in sexual assault prevention and survivor services at Student Counseling Services, said.
“The volunteers/advocates at Stepping Stones are a critical component to a community response that is compassionate, supportive, validating and healing. At a time of crisis it is very difficult to process information, make informed decisions and deal with the trauma one has endured; having an informed, supportive and compassionate advocate/volunteer is an invaluable, essential resource for survivors,” she continued.
Yadira Ruiz, Stepping Stones director, said when choosing volunteers she looks for “the ability to commit, excellent listening and communication skills, a passion for working with others, the ability to see outside of their own experiences and respect others; and the ability to follow directions well.”
“When dealing with someone in crisis, the volunteer will need to be the stable, calming presence; one needs to be empathic, without becoming overly emotional themselves,” Trimpe-Morrow added.
Those interested in volunteering will need to participate in a 40 hour advocate training program that will include: types of sexual violence, rape trauma syndrome, crisis intervention skills and medical and legal advocacy.
“By the time people complete the 40 hour training, they know if they are emotionally ready or not,” Ruiz said.
Once the training program is complete, volunteers are asked to volunteer at least once a month, either during a 48 hour block during the week or a 72 hour block during the weekend, depending on their schedule and the needs of the program, Pat Poppe, Director of PR and Development and volunteer at Stepping Stones, explained.
“There are a number of ‘tough topics’ encountered when working with sexual assault survivors and the extensive advocate training program at the YWCA/Stepping Stones prepares volunteers to deal with these,” Trimpe-Morrow said.
“There is often a sense of anger and frustration; anger that such acts of violence occur, and frustration at the system’s response of these incidents. There may be a strong urge to take care of the survivor but it is more important that the survivor be empowered to make their own decisions,” she continued.
Though the program may cause volunteers to be emotional, Ruiz feels the community and volunteers both experience benefits.
“Sexual violence has been declared an epidemic in this country. One in three women will experience sexual violence and one in six men will experience sexual violence. Most people do not know how to talk about this or how to be a part of the solution. The Stepping Stones program gives people a way to help others and be involved in social change,” she said.
Applications can be found at the YWCA or on the YWCA Web site and should be directed to Senna Adjabeng. The YWCA accepts new volunteers twice a year, so applications are welcome anytime.
If students are unable to volunteer at Stepping Stones, but are still interested in taking action, Trimpe-Morrow explained there are two on-campus student organizations, Feminist Led Activist Movement to Empower and Male Allies Responding to Sexual Violence and other Social Justice Issues are organizations that students can take part in.
“Both work to create awareness of sexual violence on campus, and establish a campus climate that is safe, respectful and supportive,” she said.
Students who are dealing with sexual assault can visit the Sexual Assault Prevention and Survivor Services Program, located in Student Counseling Services. They provide ongoing support and advocacy for sexual assault survivors.
“These services are confidential and will not result in a formal [police or university] report being filed unless the survivor decides to do so. This program assists the student in accessing whatever services might be needed to support their ongoing recovery and serves as the survivor’s advocate within the university,” Trimpe-Morrow explained.