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Volunteers needed to help victims of sexual violence

Published on

Tara Jeffrey

Survivors of sexual abuse will often wake in the night — triggered by a nightmare or flashback — panicked, terrified and alone.

“They’re unable to ground themselves,” said Trish Vanoosterom, public educator and counsellor with the Sexual Assault Survivors’ Centre (SASC) Sarnia-Lambton. “They just need to have a sounding board to help them, almost, out of a panic attack.

“That’s where our crisis line comes in.”

The 24-hour service exists to assist victims of sexual assault and abuse. And while calls during business hours are handled by agency counsellors, the SASC relies entirely on volunteers to field the after-hours crises – providing callers with information, emotional support and non-directive counseling.

Vanoosterom will host a two-part volunteer training session this month, for women looking to get involved.

The sessions cover topics like flashback management, coping strategies, childhood sexual abuse and its effects, human trafficking, male survivors, residential schools, how and when to report abuse, and more.

“We also explain the hospital process, for more recent victims of abuse, because that’s such a scary time,” said Vanoosterom. “We do role-play and use real case scenarios.”

Currently, there are only about six volunteers on hand to take the after-hours calls via a pager. Ideally, Vanoosterom would like to see that number doubled.

“We have a monthly calendar that goes out, and we ask that people sign up for at least two shifts per month,” she said. “It’s very random and sporadic. Some people will volunteer for weeks and not get a call. Then someone will volunteer for two days and get calls all night. There’s no rhyme or reason to it.”

More recently, Vanoosterom has noticed a concerning spike in calls regarding area youth.

According to the Public Health Agency of Canada, one in four girls and one in 6 boys has been sexually abused by the time they turn 18.

“There’s a lot of teenage sexual abuse being reported,” she said. “So, it’s so important that, when they call the crisis line, they have someone to answer it.”

The Sexual Assault Survivors’ Centre crisis line volunteer training takes place May 23 and 30 (must attend both sessions) from 9:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. For more information or to register, call 519-337-3154 or email [email protected] or [email protected].

The 24-hour crisis line can be reached at 519-337-3320.


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