Former social worker and high school counselor offers support as hotline volunteer
When the sexual assault hotline operated by YWCA Clark County summons a volunteer advocate, they never know exactly what to expect on the other end of the call. But thanks to the intensive training provided by YWCA, those advocates know what is expected of them.
“You are there to provide support and to listen. The person has just gone through trauma, so you need to remain very calm.”
That’s what volunteer advocate Bonnie Little has learned since joining the Sexual Assault Hotline team two years ago. Bonnie, whose 40-year career as a social worker and high school counselor brought her into contact with an untold number of victims, says the victims and the assaults may vary. But the need for immediate support following an attack is a constant.
Bonnie is among some two dozen advocates who cover calls 24/7 coming from hospitals, victims, and family members. The hotline number (360-695-0501), which also takes domestic violence calls, is one of the many services offered only by YWCA in the Clark County area.
When the phone rings in YWCA’s domestic violence shelter, an advocate answers and determines which team should follow up: Domestic Violence or Sexual Assault. Calls forwarded to Sexual Assault come from a variety of callers: hospital officials who have just admitted an assault victim, recent victim, and those who have carried their wound many years and just need to talk about it.
When the call comes from a hospital, an advocate goes to the hospital. The job may require several hours or more, Bonnie says, as the victim waits for a sexual assault nurse examiner to arrive and undergoes a forensic medical examination. During that time, the advocate is there so that the victim is never alone, never without an empathetic listener and a trained observer, someone who can inform them of their legal right as a sexual assault victim and inform them of available community resources.
Becoming a hotline advocate isn’t light volunteer duty. Its time commitments are substantial: approximately 40 hours of intensive training, then being on call at least two days a month.
Bonnie and program specialists say an ideal candidate must have a flexible schedule, an empathetic personality, and must know the difference between supporting a victim and trying to fix them.
YWCA Clark County Volunteer Bonnie Little is making a difference for sexual assualt victims in Clark County.
Although Bonnie is retired and can more easily devote the necessary time to advocacy, she believes the role can be an excellent one for young people who are considering a career in social work. She says the experience of dealing directly with victims can help someone know whether this is the right fit for them. And, if it is, it can be a good resume booster.
Bonnie not only works her hotline stint every month, but also co-facilitates a YWCA group for victims. “Helping people is in my DNA,” she says. And YWCA provides the opportunity to fully activate her DNA.
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