Passion in Action
Bri B., VOLUNTEER ADVOCATE
I was introduced to Alexandra House through a good friend. She had been volunteering with Alexandra House for a few years and during that time she’d continue to tell me that she thought I’d be an amazing advocate. She planted the seed and after some time, I felt called to do something important. Volunteering with Alexandra House felt like a good fit for what I wanted to do and it would allow me to use my own experiences and knowledge to help others. Through Alexandra House’s advocate training, I feel equipped to speak with people who have been or are being hurt by domestic and/or sexual violence.
After volunteering for nearly a year, it continues to surprise me that for a small organization, it is able to offer all-encompassing services and support to survivors. As a volunteer, I am able to support the on-call hospital and legal advocacy programs. Through that work, I witness the overlap between programs regularly – from the moment I see a client in the hospital after an assault to what could be months later in a civil and/or criminal case. There are so many different areas that survivors need help with and seeing the way the programs work together is really encouraging.
One of the things I find inspiring as a volunteer is to see staff’s passion in action; from frontline staff to leadership. Each person at Alexandra House shares a passion for helping survivors and preventing violence. They truly care about everyone who walks through those doors or calls the hotlines. They care so much and so well for not only the clients, but their volunteers and staff as well.
One of the hardest things about becoming a volunteer advocate is once you know the signs of abuse, or have responded to a hospital call, or understand the basis of rape culture, you can’t look away and you can’t unknow it. You are forever changed and forever an advocate. I’ve found myself in public witnessing couples interacting, and thinking, “is he/she being abused?” I struggle with how our culture seems to accept and normalize sexist and derogatory ‘jokes’, demeaning behaviors, and victim-blaming. Please hear me: IT IS NEVER THE VICTIM’S FAULT. One of the worst things anyone can do when hearing a story of assault is to insinuate that the victim somehow did something to provoke or ‘deserved’ what happened to them. Trust me, they’ve already thought that themselves. Instead we need to believe, listen to, and support survivors.
If we witness victim-blaming and shaming in our own personal communities and groups, we need to be courageous and call it out. Ultimately, it starts with us as individuals. It’s our responsibility to educate ourselves and once we have, take on the task of educating and empowering those around us.