If you can ask, listen, and learn, you can be an advocate.

Published: April 2, 2019

Author: Stephanie Grace; Hospital Response Volunteer

Last April, I met a Families First staff member at a trauma-informed yoga class, and our conversation led me to check out the Families First website when I got home. I wasn’t specifically looking for volunteer opportunities that day, but when I saw the call for sexual assault response volunteers, my brain insisted “there’s no way you’re strong enough to do that!” and “you absolutely have to do that!” at the same time. I managed to ignore the first part long enough to fill out the online volunteer interest form, and I was a member of the first cohort to go through the volunteer advocate training last May.

I still doubted myself, though. While I sat in the training classes, sometimes I wasn’t sure I was strong enough to be an advocate. After all, how good could I be at helping others with something I struggled to handle myself? Did I have the emotional strength necessary to meet people in the emergency room on one of the worst days of their lives? I thought about my own experience as a sexual assault survivor, and that was when I knew exactly how impactful advocacy could be. I waited more than 20 years for someone to say “I believe you.” No one should ever again have to wait that long to be believed. As a volunteer advocate, I have the opportunity to let survivors know they are believed from the very first day they choose to come forward -- and not just believed, but supported, lifted up, and positioned to heal. Dealing with trauma is hard. Knowing that someone is there just for you -- to believe you, support you, and advocate for you -- makes a huge difference at the start of the healing journey. It really is that simple. That’s why this work is so important and why I’m humbled to be part of it.

If you’re interested in becoming a volunteer advocate, but you’re anxious to move forward, I understand. But you can do it. The Families First staff and the continuing education and support they provide are amazing. With shifts available around the clock, the time commitment is flexible and manageable. If you can ask, listen, and learn, you can be an advocate. Your kindness is your credential. You have the power to help sexual assault survivors right now -- use it!