Call for Help seeks volunteers to attend to sexual assault victims

News-DemocratOctober 14, 2013 

The Sexual Assault Victims Care Unit at Call for Help is seeking volunteers to advocate for the victims of sexual assault.

Advocates help victims navigate the medical and legal systems, and inform them about options such as orders of protection. The volunteers help the victim through the evidence gathering process, provide comfort and serve as an advocate during police interviews and with medical personnel. The volunteers are on-call to provide 24-hour response and support to metro east victims of rape and other sexual assaults.

"After a sexual assault, victims are left frightened, confused and often ashamed about what just happened to them. They may not know where to go, what to do, or whom to tell. Our medical/legal advocates help victims access medical and legal resources available to them, and begin the healing and recovery process," said Mindy Stratmann-Sebol, Sexual Assault Victims Care Unit manager for Call for Help.

Volunteers help more than 100 victims in the metro east every year. Currently, there are nine volunteers, down from 23 volunteers last year.

Ideally, the organization would like to have about 20 volunteers. Volunteers are asked to be on-call for at least two 12-to-15 hour shifts every month and are required to commit to volunteering for a year with the Sexual Assault Victims Care Unit.

In St. Clair, Madison, Monroe and Randolph counties, 261 cases of rape were reported in 2011, according to the Illinois State Police. However, experts estimate that fewer than half of rapes are reported by victims.

Our volunteers play an essential part in supporting victims of sexual assault," Stratmann-Sebol said. "They are often one of the first persons a sexual assault victim meets after an assault. The volunteer's kindness and compassion help many victims get through a most traumatic moment. So, it's essential that our volunteers are committed to and have a passion for ending sexual assault in our community."

Special 40-hour training sessions for potential volunteers will be held Oct. 19-20, Oct. 26-27 and Nov. 18-22. The sessions will be held at Call for Help at 9400 Lebanon Road. During the sessions, volunteers learn how to help victims immediately after an assault, including getting medical treatment and pursuing legal measures.

Those who complete the training will be qualified to serve as medical and legal advocates for victims. All volunteers must undergo a criminal background check.

For more information or to register, contact the Sexual Assault Victims Care Unit at 397-0975 or at info@callforhelpinc.org.

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