ST. GEORGE — The Dove Center, a local nonprofit organization providing shelter, advocacy and counseling to survivors of domestic violence, rape and sexual assault, will begin its biannual 40-hour training course for volunteer advocates Jan. 25.
The training aims to equip new advocates with the knowledge, tools and understanding necessary to interact with different demographics of survivors. An advocate’s goal is to ensure a survivor has access to the emotional and physical resources needed following an assault.
The training is specifically tailored to certify members of Dove Center’s Hospital Advocate Response Team, or Hart, a group of on-call volunteers who respond to the emergency room to offer immediate support to rape or sexual assault survivors during a forensic exam and/or police interview.
Being on-call for an ER visit can be daunting for a volunteer, but the training helps.
“The training opens your eyes and breaks down any previous bias you had,” Joey Jergins, a Hart volunteer since 2014, said. “It helps you really understand the issues and problems that come up with different people in different situations.”
In addition to the initial 40-hour training, Hart volunteers meet monthly in order to debrief, receive ongoing training and stay up to date on best practices for trauma-informed advocacy.
Elizabeth Bluhm, Dove Center’s rape victim advocate coordinator, leads the meetings and regularly reminds advocates about their real purpose when responding.
“An advocate’s prime responsibility is to really listen to and believe a rape victim,” Bluhm said. “In today’s society, we are bombarded by a rape culture that blames the victim while letting the perpetrator off the hook.”
Rape culture refers to a common societal belief that sexual aggression is normal — that, for example, men can’t control their sexual urges and women are to blame for provoking an assault.
“We are working to combat that faulty reasoning,” Bluhm said. “As advocates, we always begin by believing the victim of the crime.”
Although a requirement for Hart volunteers, Dove Center’s advocate training helps prepare volunteers for other roles within the agency. The training is open to interested community members as well and is particularly useful for anyone assisting victims of domestic or sexual violence in an occupational, community or religious setting.
The training course begins Jan. 25 at Dove Center’s outreach office at 1240 E. 100 South, No. 221, St George. Classes are held Monday through Friday, 4-8 p.m., for 10 sessions, concluding Feb. 5.
For more information, or to register for the course, go online or call 435-628-1204. Space is limited, so early registration is encouraged.
It is $50 to participate; registration deadline is Jan. 22. For info on other volunteer opportunities with Dove Center, please visit their website.
- What: Dove Center training for domestic violence, rape and sexual assault victim advocates
- When: Jan. 25-Feb. 5, Monday-Friday, 4-8 p.m.
- Where: Dove Center outreach office, 1240 E. 100 South, No. 221, St. George