Average people. Caring individuals of all genders with jobs, businesses, school and family responsibilities.
These are the people who hear the stories, and read the posts online from survivors of abuse speaking out for the first time or for the 100th time. Survivors from all walks of life—rich or poor, of different ages, sexual-orientation, of all races and backgrounds. Because we know abuse doesn’t discriminate.
And when these average people hear and read these stories, they don’t just keep scrolling. They don’t change the radio station. The #metoo stories resonate differently for these remarkable individuals.
They listen and really hear what is being shared and they ache as survivors lay their pain bare. Their righteous indignation ignites at hearing about the injustices faced by so many survivors.
Many of these folks themselves have endured similar trauma: abused by family and friends and trusted others meant to love and protect and respect their humanity. They have worked so hard, pushing themselves to speak out, to get support, and to walk the arduous, long and windy path towards healing. Many had support from friends and family, from community and institutions that believed and supported them. Many more were ignored, blamed, and disregarded.
These individuals step up regardless, to pay forward the unconditional support they received, or to be for another survivor what they didn’t have when they needed it most. A true advocate.
What can be more humbling and inspiring than the words of volunteers stepping up to become advocates with HAVEN?
“I just couldn’t stand by and do nothing. I have to step up and make a difference.”
“Yes, I can take hotline calls at 2 am. Yes, I can go the hospital ER to meet a survivor of sexual assault and help them navigate the process of a forensic exam.”
“Anyone being abused needs to hear that they’re not alone. That it’s not their fault.”
“I just want to put good energy back into the world. Even if I can help only one person, that alone will be worth it.”
Each time I meet with a prospective volunteer advocate, my energy soars. How amazing! How inspiring!
At HAVEN we’re clear that our role is not to “save” someone’s life. And yet, to me, each and every one of these volunteer advocates are true superheroes disguised as average people.
Volunteer Advocates play a vital role in HAVEN’s work to end violence and change lives. They can do either day shifts, fielding hotline calls on an on-call basis from home, or night and weekend shifts. In light of safety concerns around Covid-19, HAVEN is making in-person advocacy optional only for those who feel comfortable doing so, with PPE and safety precautions in place. This could include meeting survivors at hospitals, court, police stations, and Child Advocacy Centers. Anyone not comfortable doing in person client meetings can instead take on-call shifts fielding hotline calls.
While the training is an extensive 32 hour program, it gives advocates a strong foundation to begin supporting survivors of domestic and sexual violence through their trauma. Advocates frequently say that learning these skills also makes them better friends, better partners, better parents. For HAVEN, volunteers sharing the work reduces burnout for staff, enabling them to continue to do this vital work. We simply could not do our work without the contributions of these amazing superheroes!
To learn more about becoming a Volunteer Advocate at HAVEN and to join the September training, visit our Volunteer Page online: https://havennh.org/get-involved/volunteer-opportunities/
Annie Dowling, Manager of Outreach & Volunteers