Healing, Helping, and Hope for the Future
Seven years ago, Emily and her family received shocking news – her aunt’s body had been found in the woods near her home. As they received more information from the investigation they discovered that her death wasn’t accidental. She was murdered by her boyfriend of ten years and had endured domestic violence in silence for many years. Finding out that there was abuse in the relationship that nobody knew anything about was a wakeup call for Emily and her family. As each of her family members grieved they decided they wanted to get involved.
“I wish I would have known what was going on in my aunt’s life before she died but then I wanted to help people that were in the same type of situation, that needed help that found ways to actually get out.”
On the five-year anniversary of her aunt’s murder, Emily and her boyfriend signed up for the annual Alexandra House Walk for Hope. At the Walk, Emily heard about the upcoming volunteer advocate training and registered for the information session to learn more.
That spring Emily went through volunteer training and once the training was complete she “dove in head first,” becoming an active shelter and on-call hospital advocate. During training, Emily was able to reflect on her aunt’s murder in a new way. As Emily learned about the dynamics of domestic violence, she understood the shame and uncertainty that her aunt may have felt as she kept the violence a secret. One of the most important lessons that Emily took away from the volunteer training was that “physical abuse is obvious, but mental or emotional abuse isn’t that obvious” even to victims of domestic violence themselves.
Since Emily has started volunteering, she has become an ambassador for Alexandra House and has seen the scope of domestic and sexual violence in her community first hand. In her day job in sales and marketing at a paper company Emily started to talk about her volunteering and coworkers began to share their own experiences with violence more openly, creating a safe space for staff. Emily says that talking to coworkers and acquaintances about violence is “eye opening and I wish more people would talk about it because that would take away the stigma of talking about it.”
For Emily, volunteering “has been one of the most rewarding decisions I’ve ever made and selfishly it’s helped me heal but it’s good knowing that I’ve made a difference to a lot of different people.” Seeing clients grow, gain confidence, and understand more about emotional abuse is particularly rewarding for her. She knows that every evening that she volunteers she has “made an impact on somebody.”
“A lot of the clients, despite what they’re going through they all tend to be just happy and friendly, it’s nice being in a friendly environment… I look forward to seeing the clients in the shelter and making a difference.”
Not only does Emily enjoy seeing the clients thrive in the shelter, Emily enjoys feeling like a part of the Alexandra House team. She looks forward to coming to her shifts because she gets to see the staff and “everybody is just so nice, it’s nice coming in here know that there is going to be a friendly face.” In addition to being friendly, staff are supportive and happy to help new volunteers learn the ropes which made it easier for Emily to get started. Her advice to people who want to get involved is: “just dive in head first.”
If you are interested in volunteering at Alexandra House, contact Jess Cheney, Community Education Coordinator, at 763-795-5452 or firstname.lastname@example.org. The 50-hour advocate training will be held in February and will start with an Information Session on Thursday, February 2, 5:30pm-7:00pm. Pre-register with Jess Cheney via phone or email.
Mandatory Information Session: Thursday, February 2, 5:30pm-7:00pm
Interviews: February 3-15
Thursday, February 16: 5:30pm-9:00pm
Saturday, February 18: 9:00am-4:30pm
Tuesday, February 21: 5:30pm-9:00pm
Thursday, February 23: 5:30pm-9:00pm
Tuesday, February 28: 5:30pm-9:00pm
Thursday, March 2: 5:30pm-9:00pm
Tuesday, March 7: 5:30pm-9:00pm
Thursday, March 9: 5:30pm-9:00pm
Saturday, March 11: 9:00am-4:30pm
Tuesday, March 14: 5:30pm-9:00pm