Stillwater News Press

September 23, 2013

Sexual Assault Response Advocate volunteers needed

By Elizabeth Keys
Stillwater NewsPress

STILLWATER, Okla. — Sexual Assault Response Advocates are a huge part of the recovery process for a victim of rape.  Wings of Hope Family Crisis Services is training SARA volunteers from 5:30-9 p.m. Thursday and 9-4:30 p.m. Saturday.  Volunteers work with law enforcement and the sexual assault nurse examiner to provide advocacy and support to victims of sexual assault though the immediate time following the assault and during the medical and legal procedures, Senior Counselor Brenda Gill said.  The training is designed to educate team members and develop increased understanding to produce effective and compassionate support for the victim.  

Gill said women ages 15-24 are most at risk with nearly 25 percent falling victim to a sexual assault. In a university community, the numbers can be higher because a good portion of college students fall in this age bracket. But,  it can happen to both men and women of any age with a majority of victims assaulted by someone they know.

“SARA’s are part of a team at crucial moments after a sexual assault has occurred,” Gill said. “Volunteers can make a positive difference in the lives of victims.”

Desiree Ingram will be assisting with the training at the Wings of Hope Family Crisis Services new building at 3800 N. Washington. Volunteers are required to attend 22 hours of training and pass a background check. An advocate needs a drivers license, reliable transportation and proof of car insurance. The time commitment after training involves one SARA meeting per month and a minimum of three to five days on call from 5 p.m. to 9 a.m. per month with the advocate’s role in responding to rape crisis at Stillwater Medical Center to help the victim as part of team with law enforcement and sexual assault nurse examiners.

“SARA’s join a team of experts who often assemble at the hospital immediately following the victim’s arrival — to lend a helping hand, a listening ear and just a steady presence while the victim’s healing process is initiated,” Gill said.

While law enforcement begins the investigation, nurses perform forensic exams and advocates provide confidential support to the victims and their families. Only one in six rapes are reported and advocates reinforce the courage to stand up against sexual assault. Training includes laws regarding crimes, appropriate ways to respond to individuals in crisis and an overview of the hospital process. Both male and female advocates are needed.

Anyone interested in serving as a sexual assault victim advocate should contact Gill at 405-372-9922 to register for the training.