In 2018, the Center for Family Services in Gloucester County provided domestic violence services to 300 men and women, court and legal advocacy services for more than 1,100 individuals, and answered more than 2,700 hotline calls pertaining domestic violence.
The Center for Family Services and the Services Empowering Rights of Victims program have provided sexual violence victim services in Gloucester County since 2001 and domestic violence victim services in 2005.
They provide services for everyone from birth to the elderly in the form of safe housing, victim services, substance abuse programs, human trafficking victim services in addition to a 24-hour hotline available for victims to speak with somebody. These services are offered free of charge.
With a wide gambit of services available, the aforementioned group is looking for volunteer help to continue to provide services to victims in the county.
“It’s really hard for the victim to come forward. Once a victim does, it’s important to have someone who knows the system, believes them and gives them options,” Associate Vice President of Victim Services Gina Ridge said. “They’re telling their most horrible, intimate experience, and it’s difficult for loved ones to hear that as well. It’s good to have an advocate with you in that process.”
Interested residents can apply to become a certified volunteer domestic violence response team member or a confidential sexual violence advocate in Gloucester County. The requirements are simple, one must be at least 18 years old, complete a 60-hour, in-person session and online training, commit to monthly on-call responsibility, dedicate one year of volunteer service and attend a minimum of six meetings or trainings per year.
The training program will take place on Tuesdays and Thursdays at Rowan College at Gloucester County from 5 to 9 p.m. from July 9 to Aug 15. In addition, applicants will complete 16 hours of online work.
Once a resident is certified, he or she can begin volunteering with the SERV program in the form of being an advocate and answering phones for the hotline, volunteering with safe houses or working with outreach and prevention programs. In addition to these services being free of charge to victims, they are 100 percent confidential.
“You’re giving back, saving a life, breaking the cycle of violence,” Ridge said. “You’re not only helping the adult in the situation, you’re helping the children as well. You’re breaking the cycle of violence and saving a life. It’s important work. There’s so much our staff alone can’t handle and that’s why we need the volunteers.”
The need for volunteers is great because domestic violence doesn’t discriminate – it can can happen to anybody, which is something Ridge outlined.
“It’s not like the economic status or ethnicity matters, it crosses all boundaries. It could be somebody who lives next door or in your neighborhood that experiences it,” she said. “It’s important for this work to happen, to help those who are experiencing violence. Just in the news with the Phillies player, it’s constant, it doesn’t matter who you are or where you come from, it happens. That’s why it’s good to get help. The more knowledge we can spread the better.”
For those interested in registering for the program, email Denise Rosen at firstname.lastname@example.org or call at (856) 881-4034 ext. 42106 by July 1. For more information, visit www.centerffs.org or its Facebook page “Services Empowering Rights of Victims,” its Instagram and Twitter pages @CfsSERV. To report domestic violence or sexual assault, call the 24-hour hotline at (866) 295-7378.