By Darcy Downing
Special to The PREVIEW
“I believe you.” Those three words changed the trajectory of my healing in 1991 and would later become my own slogan as I worked as a counselor with survivors of sexual abuse and severe trauma. I wish my mother had had the same opportunity before the abuse reached me.
As I grew in age, so did the size of the trauma, until the day my stepfather raped me again, only this time getting me pregnant. He whisked me away to an abortion clinic with the only evidence penciled into the margin of my medical record; a referral to a Boulder abortion clinic and the words “positive pregnancy.” My mother never believed me about the sexual abuse.
I often wonder what would have changed if I had had an advocate on my side, so someone could tell me then, “I believe you.” My fear, along with my mother’s, was merited, though, and the threats, the physical violence, the blatant control and reinforced isolation left me, the child who witnessed it all, wide-eyed and asking, “Is there anyone who will believe me?”
Advocacy, at its core, is a response to support a specific cause. I see no better societal cause than the one that is finally making its way to the courts and the headlines of our newspapers. The misrepresentation of justice by keeping a victim silent from the sexual crimes that plague our nation is finally coming to light. How? By telling the story. It is never too late to tell your story.
Rise Above Violence is a local solution to responding to these types of crimes. Did you know that Archuleta County has its own 24-hour crisis hotline? This is the place where you can become actively involved in making a difference in our community while increasing awareness and support through advocacy.
Rise Above Violence and our crisis advocates are members of the community who volunteer to respond and answer domestic violence and sexual assault crisis calls on scene alongside law enforcement. Our crisis advocates are highly trained by our agency to successfully support victims of domestic violence and sexual assault.
Crisis advocates are responsible for responding to on-scene crisis calls, are available to respond and answer hotline calls on designated days, follow up with crisis clients within 24 hours, inform Rise Above Violence staff of hotline calls and on scene responses and commit to attending once-a-month volunteer training for continued education.
How it works: Rise Above Violence has a 24-hour hotline that covers seven days a week. The days are broken down into 12-hour shifts. The day shift is from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. and the night shift is from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. Each volunteer selects their shift, including which nights or days they want to cover. Depending upon their personal schedule, our volunteers decide how many shifts they want to take each month. When on call, we ask that you be available to respond to any calls. We do not expect you to put your life on hold and stop your daily activities, just that you remain accessible to respond to a crisis call if and when you are needed. This service is confidential and is a type of safety line extended by Rise Above Violence through our trained advocates.
If you are interested in volunteering as an advocate in Archuleta County, a new series of trainings will begin on Oct. 25. Contact Rise Above Violence at 264-1129 or email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information. Rise Above Violence is seeking candidates interested in giving back to the community by volunteering their valuable time to make a difference in someone’s life.
If you or someone you know is in a violent relationship, please call our 24/7 hotline at 264-9075 to receive free support and information. A crisis advocate can come to you if you need help finding a place to be safe.
Rise Above Violence is a 501(c)3 nonprofit that provides 24-hour support and advocacy services for victims of domestic violence and sexual assault or other forms of violence, serving over 300 victims each year. It also works to eliminate violence through education for youth and our community. All programs and services are free and confidential, including emergency prevention education and empowerment programs.
Visit www.riseaboveviolence.org for more information or call 264-1129.
By Darcy Downing