While you were sleeping last night, a victim advocate woke to the sound of the pager, alerting that a crisis was occurring, and the assistance of an advocate was needed. The advocate was quick to dress and make a possible adjustment of bed-hair, and was off into the unknown to intervene and try to help a person suffering from the effects of domestic violence.
This is a day (or night) in the life of a crisis response victim advocate.
Arriving at the scene, the advocate encounters a distraught victim, traumatized children and a compassionate police officer. Gently and attentively the advocate responds to the emergent needs first.
Is it to find a safe place to stay for the night, for a week or a month? Is it food or clothing?
Then comes help with the journey on the road to recovery — long for some, shorter for others, a journey that starts with that first response. Advocates are with the victim every step of the way, as a sounding board for options, providing a validating ear to the victims’ horrible experiences, and offering specialized guidance towards what life should be for them, and their children.
Responding to victims in crisis is a daunting task, one that requires patience, compassion and diligence with regard to safety, but one that is also very rewarding.
An advocate’s objectives are clear: What will it take for this victim and her children to live their lives free from abuse?
An advocate’s call is to determine what it will take, and what can be done to make it happen. The question, “Can this relationship be salvaged?” is not one for an advocate to answer, but instead the advocate guides the victim, helping to determine what their particular situation requires.
We do not advocate for divorce, nor do we consider it necessarily successful when a victim decides to leave. We use the word “success” when the violence has stopped, and the ultimate success is when the batterer stops their abusive, controlling behaviors.
Going out in the middle of the night is just the beginning of what an advocate does in this fight against domestic violence. Advocates believe in the cause, believe that violence will end, and that we can create a community where violence becomes a notion of the past. If we didn’t believe, what would be the point of answering the pager?
The Archuleta County Victim Assistance Program (ACVAP) is a private, non-profit organization supporting victims of domestic violence and sexual assault through intervention, education and comprehensive victim services.