Rape Crisis Companion Volunteers Needed
"Jill" started volunteering as a rape crisis companion in Mecklenburg county three months ago. She says, "It's a little nerve wracking, but as soon as you get on a call, you calm down and get comfortable."
Twice a month, she takes calls from people on the county's 24 hour rape crisis hotline. She offers support, crisis counseling and will even accompany a victim to the hospital. "To me personally, I think it's important to make a difference any way you can, even if it's in a small way,” she says.
Jill is one of 25 trained companions in Mecklenburg county. Ideally, there should be at least 35. In Union county, there are 15, but the minimum goal is 20. And in Cabarrus county, there are only 8. They'd like to see at least 15.
"Our ideal goal would be to only have each volunteer doing two shifts per month. In Cabarrus county, they're doing about seven shifts per month right now,” says Joey Honeycutt. She's the volunteer coordinator and says right now, midway through the year, volunteers have accompanied 74 victims to the hospital, only two people short of the total number for 2009.
"It has seemed like, just to me as someone who works in the office every day, that our hotline has been ringing more,” says Honeycutt.
Volunteers have to be 21 years old, have transportation, clear a background check and complete an intensive training course that starts Wednesday, May 12. "We don't try to sugar coat anything. It's really important that people understand at the outset what it is that they're signing up for,” says Honeycutt.
Rape crisis companions don't have to report to an office building for their 12 hour shift. All they have to do is carry their cell phone on them, in case a victim calls.
Jill calls the work rewarding and eye opening. "I think we all know that its out there, but when you're faced with it, it's a little more real,” she says.
Male rape crisis companions are especially in short supply. If you're interested in volunteering, email Joey Honeycutt of United Family Services at Jhoneycutt@ufsclt.org or call her at 704-367-2734.