Thursday, August 30, 2012
An Ode to the Volunteers
This week is volunteer training at the Boston Area Rape Crisis Center. As I type, there are group of people on the other side of the wall learning all about the adolescent sexual assault survivors. While some are going through training to join other organizations such as Gay Men’s Domestic Violence Project (GMDVP) or the North Shore Rape Crisis Center (NSRCC), the majority of participants are in training to join one of the three BARCC volunteer programs (Hotline, Medical Advocacy, and Community Awareness and Prevention Services). Volunteer training, and working with volunteers in general, always brings up thoughts about how all-around awesome volunteers are and how much more we are able to accomplish with their availability, hard work, and dedication to the issue of sexual violence and support for survivors. With all that in mind, it is the least I can do to highlight all the important work that volunteers do for our organization and how lucky we are to be surrounded by such a strong pool of people who care.
BARCC volunteers are a special group of people who have willingly gone through a 40-hour training either over the course of a week or a month and then have additional requirements of attending two peer supervisions per month in order to stay connected with the program, get support, and continue their education. Even without talking about doing regular shifts per month, volunteers are already taking on a huge commitment to be a part of BARCC and their specific program.
Volunteers are responsible for lots of amazing work each year in every program. Just in the past year, CAPS staff and volunteers did over 270 engagements throughout the greater Boston area, totaling over 900 hours. These engagements could be workshops, trainings, tablings, or accompanying survivor speakers to events. Audiences also vary widely from middle and high school students to college students to domestic violence and health professionals. Of all these engagements, volunteers did more than 430 hours. The majority of volunteer hours took place in the evenings during the week or weekend.
Medical Advocacy volunteers went on 378 cases and spent over 800 hours with survivors and over 230 hours with significant others (family, friends, partners, etc). Over 140 of those cases happened overnight. Volunteers work with a variety of individuals in the hospital in addition to the survivor and the significant others. These can include Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners (SANEs), medical staff, and law enforcement officials.
Hotline volunteers filled more than 1,800 shifts over the past year with each shift between 4-7 hours long. The hotline received more than 3,200 calls in the past year; many of which were answered by a volunteer on-call counselor or volunteer back-up. All of these phone calls equaled out to more than 1,000 hours of talking time between counselors and callers.
Merely listing the numerical contributions of volunteers is evidence enough of their dedication and willingness to fully participate in each of their respective programs. However, it is even more important to remember what these volunteers are doing during the many hours they spend being representatives and ambassadors for BARCC. They could be supporting a survivor through a crisis moment whether it has been one hour or 10 years since the assault. They could be talking with a significant other or provider about how to empower, talk to, and support a survivor they know. In the hospital, they are the only person who is there to completely focus on the survivors needs and to support them. Volunteers challenge social norms and stereotypes about sexual violence, survivors, and perpetrators during trainings and workshops with community members. A BARCC volunteer may be the first place where a survivor hears encouraging and validating words of support about their experiences.
I consider myself very lucky to work with such an amazing group of people who are willing to give so much of themselves without expecting anything in return. There is no way that we could complete as much of what we do without their assistance, skills, and dedication.