Thursday, October 5th, 2017
I feel very privileged more than anything to be here to speak to you on behalf of the other 98 committed volunteers who every day of every week—24/7—give of themselves to keep this vital service running and are the first point of contact for victims of sexual violence.
I have been volunteering with the Dublin Rape Crisis Centre for 18 months and the two main areas where we work and I work are on the confidential Helpline—responding to calls outside of office hours which enables telephone support 24/7 nationwide—and the other is accompanying victims to the Sexual Assault Treatment Unit (SATU), also a 24/7 service but totally staffed by volunteers. There are other areas for volunteers for court accompaniment and outreach but these two are where most volunteers work for their first two years.
I hope to give you a flavour of what motivates people to become volunteers, the principles to which we operate and the work we do.
In terms of motivation to become a volunteer these can be many and varied – from people who through their career/study has led them here, people who saw the ad and said ‘I’ll give it a go’, or those who want to contribute back to their community and see this service as vital in healing trauma. One thing for sure is that the volunteers come from every walk of life and every social background, which when you think about it is also a reflection of our clients.
For me, there were a number of motivations. I had a friend who was involved with the Centre in the early years and I always promised her I’d get involved. Life can be very busy and that didn’t happen immediately but, when I did get some extra time, I looked around for an opportunity and saw the ad and remembered my promise. But on another level the role appealed to me, as it gave the opportunity to get directly involved – to make a difference. I was fortunate to be selected and off I trotted to the training to find out how I was going to ‘help fix things for people’—oh the naïveté!
The training was held over 8 full weekends. Along with the practicalities, the main focus was developing our understanding of the RCC principles and required behaviours: empathy, belief, compassion, trust, respect, listening, care and support—no fixing there—just to BE there. And you wonder if that is enough? But when you go on the Helpline you realise how all the training comes together and just being there can be enough to help callers on their healing journey.
I can honestly say that the training is excellent and ensures that no matter what their experience beforehand, everyone meeting a client or taking a call is equipped to be a volunteer councillor.
To give you an example of the type of call we get it can be a caller who calls a few times but hangs up and then calls back and is just silent…we don’t fill the gap but occasionally acknowledge we are there. The other scenario is when a victim has just been raped and finds it hard to even coordinate their words. Here our first priority is their immediate safety.
Some callers occasionally reach out to the service as they are going through a particularly difficult time and want to talk through where they are in their journey. This helps them continue to progress. One of the most humbling calls can be where you are the first person the client has told of their assault and the relief they feel when you listen and tell them you believe them can be truly overwhelming…the simple act of being believed is life changing.
The second service is accompaniment to the SATU where you meet with a victim and are led by them in terms of whether they want to talk or not. It’s a situation which can be totally overpowering because of the number of people involved—from the Guards to the medical personnel—BUT we are there to support them. We’re in their corner however they wish to use us to help them. Many times members of their family come too and they are also distressed, however the client is our main focus throughout.
The work is tough but is very rewarding when you can see and hear the hope that victims have that they will/can move forward and begin healing the trauma. The tears of gratitude for the hand or ear of human kindness—by our presence they feel society hasn’t let them down totally in their darkest hours, when the most appalling crime that could happen to them, happened.
In today’s world many people feel that they can’t help / overwhelmed by all the tragedy in society but here is an opportunity to have a positive impact in society by volunteering for the DRCC, its work that has a positive impact of people lives and this couldn’t be provided without the volunteers.
I started out by saying I felt privileged speaking on behalf of the 98 DRCC volunteers but I feel very privileged to work for such a supportive organisation and for the trust our clients put in us to help them begin to heal the trauma.
Avril – DRCC Volunteer