Guest Post By Pamela Drager
Pamela Drager MSW, LSW is currently the Community Outreach Coordinator at the Domestic Abuse and Sexual Assault Crisis Center of Warren County. She has worked or volunteered in the interpersonal violence field for about ten years. Pamela currently focuses on teaching and educating volunteers and community members on topics related to interpersonal violence.
A volunteer asked me on the last day of training how many hours a week I work for our dual sexual assault and domestic violence agency. I answered and he shook his head in awe. “Wow,” he said, “I can’t imagine doing what you do. Thank you for doing this work.” It was a surprising moment given that I was just as in awe of this volunteer and his peers; they had just completed the training to be a part of the exact same work I do- only they would be doing it for free.
In a world where there is not enough time in the day to get everything done, there are people who still go above and beyond to help others. These people are volunteers. At our agency, the majority of our volunteers work as Confidential Sexual Violence Advocates lending support to our clients during moments of crisis.
Any time we receive a call for help, I know that our advocates will be there, ready to provide a kind ear and a heart of compassion.
Advocates are crucial to the work our agency does. Some advocates take hotline shifts and are the first voice a survivor hears and the first connection with our agency. Some advocates are on-call and respond to hospitals to support survivors directly after a sexual assault. Other advocates help spread the word that we are here to help in any way we can. Our agency might not be the first call a survivor makes, but when someone does call us, we want to provide them with information, resources, and, most importantly, support.
No matter where the location or how advocates interact with survivors, advocates provide a safe place to discuss what has happened to them. Sometimes, the advocate is the first person who believes without judgment and really listens to the survivor. These advocates also try to keep them as safe as possible by helping to create a safety plan.
I am personally inspired by each volunteer that comes to our agency. They devote over 40 hours of training to become skilled advocates before they can even begin to volunteer. Upon graduation, they become the face of our agency. I have the privilege to watch them grow and develop into sensitive, empathetic listeners who believe the survivors and the mission of the movement. Any time we receive a call for help, I know that our advocates will be there, ready to provide a kind ear and a heart of compassion.
Confidential Sexual Violence Advocates serve survivors at each of NJCASA’s 22 sexual violence programs. Advocates provide crisis intervention, emotional support, and resources to survivors and their loved ones. To learn more about volunteering as a Confidential Sexual Violence Advocate, contact the program in your area.
NJCASA features posts from guest bloggers to provide a broad perspective about topics relating to sexual violence. The views, opinions, and experiences expressed in guest posts are those of the author and are not necessary shared, or endorsed by, NJCASA.