Advocacy program seeks volunteers to assist assault victims

Free SERV training of 40 hours to begin in early May

Volunteers for the SERV program are often asked to attend tabling events such to help event attendees receive any information they might be looking for about Center for Family Services programs. This event was an April Sexual Assault Awareness Month awareness event with an egg hunt. In the picture from the left is Sara Echevarria, Lisette Hernandez, T’Enaya Dow.

The Center for Family Services wants volunteers to participate in its upcoming training for the Services Empowering Rights of Victims (SERV) program.

The program provides services and advocacy for victims and survivors of sexual assault, domestic violence and human trafficking. Volunteers staff a 24 hour hotline and are assigned to a victim or survivor they can help through processes such as sexual assault exams, pressing charges against assailants and finding safe housing. 

“We need our volunteers; we can’t run our program without them,” said Regina Ridge, associate vice president for Victim Services and Adult Residential Services. “You don’t have to have any certain qualifications … but it’s more people who are passionate, thoughtful and they want to give back and support people. They have to be nonjudgmental.”

Volunteers attend a free, 40 hour Zoom training to become certified in both sexual and domestic violence. The program is open to volunteers 18 and older who must commit to one full year of volunteering. Training will take place from 6 to 9 p.m. on May 4, 6, 10,  12, 14, 18, 20, 24, 26, 28 and June 1, 3 and possibly Saturday, June 5. Registration can be found at https://www.centerffs.org/serv/volunteer-serv.

“We are a 24 hour service; people don’t get assaulted just 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Monday through Friday … We have to be available all the time,” Ridge explained.  “It is better when you have someone being able to give you insight about what is going to happen next. They can tell the victim what is going to happen during the exam, that we will be there for them and be that nonjudgmental person, which is so important for the survivor during the recovery process.”

Normally, advocates are called by nurses or police officers who come across a victim of sexual assault or violence, and they usually show up at a hospital or police station to help the survivor. Because of COVID, advocates now go through this process over the phone. 

“It has been difficult for people to volunteer because at this point, because of the pandemic, we aren’t going into the hospital,” Ridge noted. “At the hospital, there is only one support person allowed to be with the survivor, and we would not want to take that spot away from a family member or friend.” 

The SERV program also seeks donations.

“We are a nonprofit and our funding is limited,” said Ridge. “Especially we need money to support victims with things you are not allowed to buy with grant money, like gas for their car. We also like to supply fresh clothing when they (victims) arrive at the police station or the hospital.”

According to Ridge, the best donations are gift cards for groceries, clothing or household items. New clothing and underwear, along with new household items such as linens, are also accepted. 

To donate to the SERV program, visit the website at https://www.centerffs.org/donate/invest-path-healing.