Opinion

Centre County United Way: Volunteers provide essential service

As a volunteer for the Centre County Women’s Resource Center, I frequently take on-call shifts, which means I can be called to go to the hospital as a member of the Sexual Assault Response Team. Although I’ve done this several times, one day stands out.

I had just finished my six-hour on-call shift without incident. Less than one hour later, my emergency contact director phoned to say the hospital notified her of two SART cases. I was asked to take one of the cases, which I was happy to do. When I got to the hospital, a nurse informed me a third victim and her parents were on their way.

I stepped out of the room while the SART nurse examined my first victim and was told the third victim had arrived. It was my first case in which the parents of the victim were present. The police had not arrived nor had the victim spoken to the nurse. I was the first person they met. I explained what they should expect from both the police and SART nurse and was able to comfort the 18-year-old woman and her anxious parents. I spent my time going back and forth between examining rooms to be with both of the victims.

When I returned home that night, it hit me how important the presence of a CCWRC advocate is as a SART member and how vital our training is. The parents of the second victim were looking to me for guidance, knowledge and comfort. They didn’t know I was a volunteer who was doing what I was taught to do. They just knew I helped alleviate their fears of what to expect and that my organization was going to be there for all of them.

Because of my training, I was able to intervene twice for the victim during the question/explanation portion of the SART nurse exam. The nurse told the parents we would have to leave the room once she started the exam but the victim wanted her mom with her. I knew from my training that the victim could have someone in the room. I respectfully asked the nurse if the mom could stay and the request was granted. The grateful look from the mom to me made me glad I was there.

I also realized the police officers and emergency room staff respect, appreciate and rely on our presence. They have legal and medical functions to carry out; I am there for the needs of the victim. One of the police officers actually asked me a procedural question that night.

This particular case truly made me see the impact and importance of the CCWRC. I am proud to be a part of this remarkable, significant and vital organization.

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