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Advocate training applications now open

Volunteers serve as ‘friendly face’ for assault victims

Published: Sunday, February 2, 2014

Updated: Sunday, February 2, 2014 19:02

Working to both prevent sexual assault and assist in the coping process when it does occur, advocates at the Sexual Assault Resource Center fulfill the role of supporting those affected by sexual assault in the community. In the last year, EJ Smith, SARC volunteer coordinator, said SARC served 427 clients.

SARC will be holding its 77th tri-annual advocate-training program on Feb. 10, and applications are now open for those interested in becoming volunteer advocates through the center.

“The SARC plays a vital role in our community,” said University Police Lt. Allan Baron. “If it wasn’t for the advocates who work on a daily basis, the center would be non-existent. A large portion of the community is between the age of 18 and 24, which are college-age victims. It’s important to have members of the community as well as students serve as advocates.”

By state law, victims of sexual assault have a right to an advocate before any further examination. Taking on the role of an advocate entails several duties from attending emergency room visits to answering hotline calls. Smith said it’s important to be there for clients as a friendly face, because reporting is not often an easy process.

 “While not all volunteers that serve are A&M students, a decent portion of them are, and I think when you live someplace, even if it isn’t your hometown, its great to work to benefit that community,” Smith said. “Our advocates aren’t just advocates on the hotline or on accompaniments, they are advocates 24/7 empowered to educate friends, classmates and others around them.”

Sonia Mahabir, WRC assistant coordinator, said she attend the SARC Advocacy training program last summer as she was beginning her position with the Women’s Resource Center. Participants in the training program will be introduced to important community resources so they can refer their peers to the appropriate outlets, Mahabir said.

“I learned some invaluable things about our community and made excellent contacts,” Mahabir said. “The skills developed in SARC advocacy training is helpful to create a safer community, as students will learn how to look out and support one another.”

The advocate-training program is meant to educate volunteers not only on ways to change the perceptions surrounding sexual assault but also how to provide a support system for those who experience the situation firsthand.

“Common sense doesn’t always apply, and there are some socially supported myths out there about sexual assault, survivors and perpetrators that should be corrected,” Smith said. “We love having A&M students volunteer, because they can proactively change the culture.”

Smith said volunteers will receive certification through the attorney general and the Texas Association Against Sexual Assault. Applications are available online and staff members will contact potential advocates for a scheduled training time pending the application review, she said.

 

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