Sexual Assault Victim Advocacy Program
The Sexual Assault Victim Advocacy Program was created as part of the Victim Assistance Program in 2013 in an effort to make the criminal justice system more responsive to survivors of sexual assault. We acknowledge that sexual assault have historically been used as tools of oppression. Rape and domestic violence first began approximately 5,000 years ago, but in recent decades there has been increasing social resistance to rape culture and a push for our local government to prioritize cases of sexual assault and take steps to provide survivors with the services they need.
To ensure a consistent, respectful, victim-centered and trauma-informed response to disclosures of sexual assault; to respond in a way that facilitates healing for survivors while taking seriously the technical requirements of building a strong case.
I chose to do this work because survivors of sexual assault deserve prioritization and access to any services they need in order to begin healing from their trauma. This is especially important in a world where their experiences are constantly invalidated, dismissed, and erased.
My role as a volunteer Sexual Assault Victim Advocate is to meet survivors at the hospital after they report a sexual assault. My job is to sit with them through interviews and the duration of
the Sexual Assault Forensic Evidence (SAFE) kit, offering emotional support while providing
access to services such as housing, transportation, childcare, legal resources, and counseling.
It is my responsibility as an advocate to help survivors create a safety plan for the immediate future. A safety plan is a personalized, practical plan that can help survivors avoid dangerous situations and know the best way to react when they are in danger.
We are always looking for more volunteers to join this program!
Our volunteer advocates work hard to answer every call and make it to the hospital, while our paid advocates take over the case when the survivor leaves the hospital. Unfortunately sometimes we are faced with a shortage of volunteers available to cover every open shift. This means that some shifts do not get covered, which often leads to paid advocates covering volunteer advocates' calls, and sometimes survivors end up going through their entire hospital visit alone.
Volunteer advocates exist so that survivors do not have to go through their hospital visit without someone there who is trained to advocate for them and their needs. Paid advocates follow survivors through the system as their case plays out. They have knowledge of the inner-workings of criminal courts and access to resources and information that volunteers don’t have. Despite their expertise, paid advocates sometimes find themselves covering volunteer shifts while juggling their other work. This is not ideal, as it creates more work and stress for our paid advocates, but it’s necessary if we want every survivor to have an advocate every step of the way.
The SAVA volunteer program was created because we acknowledge that immediate assistance is critical for survivors’ welfare. This assistance may look like offering emotional support and providing the survivor with access to services– things that most hospital staff and police officers cannot do for them. Going through this process alone directly following an assault can result in making uninformed decisions that one might not usually make, and even in retraumatization.
More volunteers would mean that every shift is covered and no call goes unanswered. This would reduce pressure on our paid advocates and on our volunteer advocates to take on more shifts every month. Advocacy is such rewarding work, but if we want to properly serve survivors by prioritizing their needs in times of crisis, we must also make sure we are taking care of ourselves.