Providence House Domestic Violence Services of Catholic Charities seeks volunteers for its response team who will work with police in Burlington County, answer domestic violence calls and provide one-time crisis intervention for victims.
“Our position is to empower and to give people information,” said Kathleen Page, legal program coordinator at Providence House. “You’re a complete stranger to this person, and you’re with them at one of the most difficult times in their life at the police station.”
Volunteers listen to and empathize with victims, providing resources and options so the latter can make informed decisions on their next steps, Page explained. Victims are also given information about the restraining order process and get help with the creation of a safety plan. The organization also has free and confidential counseling services and a safe shelter for those in immediate danger.
New volunteers will undergo an interview process and 40-hour training over the span of 10 classes that includes court observation regarding restraining order hearings in Burlington County Superior Court. Trainees will also shadow an experienced volunteer and that volunteer will shadow the trainee before he or she goes into the field.
Page said Providence House looks for volunteer candidates who are nonjudgmental and empathetic and are good listeners.
“They’re investing in us and also we’re investing in them,” she noted. “We all have the same goal, which is to make the difference in someone’s life who needs it.”
The domestic violence team currently has about 60 volunteers who are broken into two geographical teams. They then respond to calls at the 32 police departments partnered with Providence House.
With potential victims confined to their homes during COVID restrictions, volunteers did their work by phone. After planning and coordination — and the easing of restrictions — team members began responding in person last month.
“To look at somebody and have somebody sitting with you, that just makes a big difference,” Page explained. She added the team was able to do incredible work even with rapidly shifting conditions.
Studies on domestic violence response show victims who meet with team members report less PTSD and depression, and a greater readiness to leave an abusive partner, according to Page.
“They’re more likely to prosecute their abuser,” she said, “and they’re more likely to have a safety plan in place.
“Victims can feel like they’re hopeless and that there is no way out. They don’t understand that they have options,” added Page, who started as a volunteer before becoming a staff member.
“Giving people that information and empowering them is very satisfying for me,” she said, “and so even if I’m helping just one person a day, a week, a month, then for me, it’s all worth it.”
If you are in need of confidential services, call the Providence House Domestic Violence Services’ 24/7 hotline at (609) 871-7551.