Sexual Assault Victim Advocate team recruiting volunteers

 

The Victim Assistance Program (VAP) for the Multnomah County District Attorney’s Office is looking for dedicated and compassionate community members to join the volunteer Sexual Assault Victim Advocate (SAVA) team.

“Having a SAVA volunteer who can respond to the hospital is critically important to help support the victim/survivor during a time that is often very confusing and emotional,” said MCDA SAVA Training Coordinator Malia Bruni. “Our volunteers will respond to emergency rooms across the metro when a sexual assault is being reported to law enforcement. Our mission is to support the victim/survivor, help them start the healing process, and get them the resources they need to move forward.”

When a victim/survivor arrives at the hospital to report a sexual assault, will meet with a SAVA as soon as possible. The SAVA will carefully explain the process of potentially meeting with doctors, a Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner (SANE) and law enforcement. The SAVA role during this stage is vitally important as there are many critical decisions that a victim/survivor will make at the hospital. A SAVA can help field many of the questions that arise during a Sexual Assault Forensic Evidence (SAFE) kit examination, and can give victims information early on about what is occurring, and what options they have, so they can process those details in a timeframe that works with trauma.

“Nobody should be going through this process alone,” said Christina Baldisseri, who has been a SAVA volunteer for six months.

Baldisseri said each response is different Victims and survivors often describe the meaningful value and worth of having a SAVA with them throughout the entire process.

“Sometimes my role has been just to be a quiet presence for somebody, which could be holding their hand or just being there so they are not alone while doctors and police come in and out of the room,” Baldisseri said.

In all cases, SAVA volunteers ensure the victim/survivor has a voice and is heard. In one of Baldisseri’s cases, she guided a survivor through her options and was able to give the victim/survivor information and support so the individual could make informed decisions for themselves. That early advocacy ensures the victim access to all of the options afforded to them.

“We’re looking for people who are very empathetic, compassionate, and want to give back to this community,” Bruni said.

The fall training session will run from October 30 through November 17 and will be held Tuesday and Thursday evenings and all day on Saturdays. SAVA volunteers will learn the different aspects of sexual assault. Trainees will hear from current MCDA VAP staff, deputy district attorneys, law enforcement and community partners.

Sexual assault impacts people across all age, gender, socioeconomic, people with disabilities and cultural groups. That impact can last a lifetime, and is often spread to a victim/survivor’s family, friends and the community.

“It really impacts everybody,” Baldisseri said.

Selected SAVA volunteers will take on shifts from 5 p.m. to 8 a.m. during the work week and then 12 hour shifts on the weekend. The goal is to have two SAVA volunteers on each shift to ensure there is never a response delay.

The SAVA program recognizes and appreciates the value of currently having male, female and non-binary volunteers, which adds to its diverse program and members.

“We want our team of volunteers to reflect the community we serve,” Bruni said. “We need to make sure that we have the right support in place for all victims/survivors while recognizing that it is critically important we provide them with someone with whom they feel comfortable speaking to about their assault.”

SAVA volunteers will receive support from the Multnomah County District Attorney’s Office SAVA team and its community partners to include case debriefings and updates on legislative efforts.

“If you have a calling to do this work, there is support in place so you don’t burn out,” Baldisseri said. “Part of the training is really focused on self-care and identifying our self-care needs and coming up with strategies to do that.”

Between August and September 2018, SAVA volunteers responded to more than 40 call outs and spent more than 105 hours with victims/survivors.

“I never know what to expect when I’m called out to the hospital but I do know that just my presence being there has a positive impact,” Baldisseri said.

The application deadline for the fall SAVA volunteer program training is October 19, 2018.

For additional information on the application process or to get additional information on the program, please call 503.988.3222 or email sava@nullmcda.us


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