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Advocate (Legal)

This program is in collaboration with Sistercare, which provides services to survivors of initimate partner violence in the Midlands. 

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

  • Accompany survivors to provide emotional support and crisis intervention during legal procedures and court hearings. These hearings are often confusing and emotionally taxing for survivors. Having an informed and supportive person for support may reduce re-traumatization by the legal process. 
  • Meet with survivors at the offices of Sexual Trauma Services of the Midlands to provide general information about legal procedures and common paperwork such as Orders of Protection and Victim Impact Statements. Advocates DO NOT provide legal advice or act as legal professionals on behalf of survivors.

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

  • Interested in working directly with survivors of sexual assault and intimate partner violence
  • Available to volunteer at least ten hours per month during normal business hours (volunteer times based court schedules)
  • Empathetic, 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? Send your completed application to our Volunteer Service Coordinator today!

If you're interested in volunteering as an advocate in Sumter County, please send your completed application to our Volunteer and Education Coordinator at vec@www.stsm.org

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PDF icon Volunteer Application216.46 KB

Frequently Asked Questions

What would I actually do?

After extensive training, you will have the knowledge and resources to answer basic questions about the legal system and courtroom procedures, as well as additional resources survivors can turn to for legal advice or further assistance navigating systems. You would also have training on trauma and crisis intervention to provide emotional support to the survivor. You would implement this knowledge by working directly with survivors who attend court hearings in general sessions as well ad Criminal Domestic Violence court, as well as other activies scheduled by the Volunteer Coordinators of Sistercare and STSM.  

Would I really be making a difference?

Yes. The process of reporting an assault, completing paperwork and legal steps required to move the case forward, and attending legal hearings related to the assault is often confusing and emotionally draining for survivors. Unfortunately, many survivors experience additional trauma during this process or decide to drop charges rather than continue to seek legal redress. 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 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 volunteers over the past 30 years, and based on this experience we know that many people have the capacity to take on this position. We provide our volunteer advocates with all of the training that they need to be effective. 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 serve survivors. Beyond the initial training, volunteer advocates continue to improve their skills by seeking out more information about the issues of sexual assault and domestic violence, attending Continuing Education Trainings, and practicing their skills.  
 

What would I be committing myself to?

After completing training, volunteers sign up to provide advocacy for a minimum of ten hours per month. Because court hearings are scheduled during the regular business day (Monday through Friday, 9 am to 5 pm) volunteers must be available during these times: this position is NOT a good fit for a volunteer who is only available nights and weekends. Beyond the initial training, 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, which is coordinated through STSM.  This consists of completing a volunteer application, meeting the Volunteer Services Coordinator 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

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. 

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

Sistercare serves battered women and their children by providing housing service, individual and group counseling, court advocacy, and community education and training.  As an advocate, you may encounter individuals from all racial and ethnic groups, sexual orientations, age groups, socioeconomic groups, and walks of life, including clients who are still experiencing abuse as well as those who have left the abusive relationship. 

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

No: many of our volunteers are survivors.  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 an 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 about opportunities at STSM, see our page on Student Internships and Service Learning. For more information about opportunities at Sistercare, see their volunteer brochure. 

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. You may also contact Christie Fleming, the Community Outreach & Volunteer Coordinator for Sistercare at (803) 926-0505 or cfleming@sistercare.com