United Family Services looking for rape crisis volunteers

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When a sexual assault happens, the victim needs more than just a police officer to take his or her statement and capture his or her assailant.

That person needs a strong shoulder to lean on, and United Family Services wants you to provide that shoulder.

The group is looking for volunteers to serve as rape crisis companions. United Family Services’ volunteer coordinator Joey Honeycutt said rape crisis companions man the 24-hour rape crisis hotline, which UFS operates.

“A rape crisis companion is a volunteer who provides crisis counseling and support and information and referral services to victims of sexual assault who contact the hotline, as well as hospital accompaniment to the victims,” she said.

To become a rape crisis companion, Honeycutt said a person must go through training.

“We have a 30-hour comprehensive training,” she said. And starting next week, training begins for a new set of volunteers. “It’s three Wednesday night sessions that are two hours and three Saturday sessions that are eight hours. The training focuses on the basics of rape and sexual assault. Victim experience, basic crisis counseling, legal and medical procedures that sort of thing.”

While Honeycutt said that it takes at least 30 people to man the hotline to ensure that all shifts are covered, the more people who want to sign up, the better.

“No number would be too many,” she said. “We tell our volunteers, once they’ve completed training to commit to a minimum of one year of service, signing up for two 12-hour shifts per month of covering the hotline.

Right now, Honeycutt said there are 26 rape crisis companions covering the hotline.

Volunteers must have access to a phone, their own transportation and get to the hospital when called in at least 30 minutes, though Honeycutt said there is some flexibility with that if a person lives further away from a hospital.

UFS will hold its next Rape Crisis Companion training in the Cabarrus County office on May 12, 15, 19, 22, 26, and 29. Wednesday night training sessions will take place from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m., and Saturday sessions will take place from 8:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Training is comprehensive, so trainees must attend all sessions.

The training sessions are open to individuals in Mecklenburg County who are interested in providing support and resources to victims of rape and sexual assault through the agency’s rape crisis hotline and hospital accompaniment. The agency also needs male Rape Crisis Companions to work with male sexual assault victims and Companions who speak Spanish.

To sign up for the training, contact United Family Services’ Volunteer Coordinator Joey Honeycutt at: 704-367-2734 or jhoneycutt@ufsclt.org for an application.

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