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Advocate (Hotline & Hospital)

Our volunteer advocates work directly with survivors of sexual assault.  After completing the application process and receiving training from STSM staff, they:

  • Accompany survivors to local emergency rooms.  The advocate provides information about the sexual assault evidence collection process, reporting to law enforcement, and services available from STSM and other agencies, as well as emotional support to the survivor and their family and friends. 
  • Answer calls on our crisis hotline.  Calls may include survivors or community members seeking emotional support or information about sexual assault and STSM services.

I feel that being a volunteer advocate has allowed me to help survivors get through a horrible experience that I wouldn't wish on anyone. It's good to know that when things like this are happening 'in my own backyard,' I'm able to make a difference. 

Volunteering as an advocate is a good fit for individuals who are:

  • Interested in working directly with survivors of sexual assault
  • Seeking flexible volunteer hours, including night or weekend hours (we provide services 24 hours a day, 7 days a week)
  • Empathetic and non-judgmental, and good listeners
  • Responsible and reliable in signing up for shifts, responding to calls appropriately, and returning paperwork to STSM staff

Interested in volunteering as an advocate? Complete the online application today! 

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PDF icon Volunteer Advocate Description82.99 KB

Frequently Asked Questions

What would I actually do?

The process of receiving medical care and reporting an assault can be confusing and emotionally draining.  Advocates are able to provide information to survivors that helps them to understand what will happen at the hospital, and provide emotional support throughout the hospital visit.  Callers on the STSM crisis line similarly need contact with a person who is able to offer warmth and skillful listening, as well as information and concrete assistance that connects them to community services.

Would I really be making a difference?

Yes.  Research has consistently shown that having a calm, consistent, and knowledgeable presence who can listen, help the survivor understand what is happening and what their choices may be, and offer emotional support is invaluable to survivors of sexual assault and abuse.  In the words of one client:

The only thing I remember about the emergency room...was that I felt...assaulted and in shock. The only good memory of that experience was the woman who came from Sexual Trauma Services. She didn't touch me or ask a million probing questions. She comforted me with a calm soft voice and brought me a coke. That coke and that voice were the most beautiful safe things I've ever heard. Thank you to whoever she was. To her it may have been a small thing...but to me, it meant all the difference in the world. 

I’m not sure if I can do this. How will I know what to say?

We have trained hundreds of volunteer advocates over the past 30 years, and based on this experience we believe that many people have the capability to take on this position, and that we provide our volunteer advocates with all of the training that they need to be an effective advocate.  Effective volunteer advocates develop their skills through training and practice.   The advocate training provides a wide range of information focused on providing advocates with insight and knowledge to answer the crisis line and provide hospital accompaniment.  Beyond the initial training, volunteer advocates continue to improve their skills by seeking out more information about the issue of sexual assault, attending Continuing Education Trainings, and by practicing their skills.  For more information, see our Job Description for Volunteer Advocates.

What would I be committing myself to?

After completing training, volunteers sign up for two on-call shifts per month: the lengths of the shifts vary, but volunteers are able to choose their shifts based on their own schedules.  Day, night, weekday, and weekend shifts are available.  The volunteer may or may not receive a hotline or hospital call during their shift. Beyond the initial 25 hours of training, volunteer advocates are required to attend at least four hours of Continuing Education per year, and to remain as a volunteer with STSM for one year.

How do I get started?

To get started as a volunteer advocate, you must first complete the Application process.  This consists of completing a volunteer application, meeting the Volunteer Services Coordinator (link sends e-mail) for a one-on-one interview, and successfully passing criminal and other background checks.  All applicants must complete this process prior to completing volunteer advocate training!  If you have any questions about this process, contact the Volunteer Services Coordinator at vsc@www.stsm.org (link sends e-mail)

Does this mean that if I was an advocate and was on call, I would just have to sit in a room and wait for someone to call the hotline?

Absolutely not!  Our volunteer advocates may be at home, with friends, and living their normal lives when on call.  We simply ask that they are able to answer their phone when on call and respond to any calls they do receive. 

Who does STSM serve? As an advocate, what types of people could I encounter?

STSM serves any member of the community who has been impacted by sexual violence.  As an advocate, you might serve a man, woman, or child who had been sexually assaulted, as well as friends or family who are supporting the survivor.  Our clients include individuals from all racial and ethnic groups, sexual orientations, age groups, socioeconomic groups, and walks of life.

If I am a survivor of sexual assault, would this affect my ability to volunteer as an advocate?

No.  Many of our volunteers are survivors of sexual assault.  We have found that it is best when the assault or abuse, as well as any legal proceedings or counseling specifically related to the assault, ended at least one year ago. If it has been at least one year and you are in a healthy place with your healing process, you are eligible to apply to volunteer.

If I need community service hours for a class that requires community service, could I volunteer as an Advocate?

We would be happy to document your volunteer hours for a class, but being a volunteer advocate is not be a good fit for someone who wants to volunteer primarily to gain community service hours.  It is a serious and long-term commitment, and typically goes far beyond what a class would require. For more information, see our page on Student Internships and Service Learning. 

I have other questions that aren't answered here. Who should I contact?

Please send an Email to our Volunteer Services Coordinator at vsc@www.stsm.org.  You can also call (803) 790-8208.