Most of us, myself included, have a tendency to have our thoughts, beliefs, world values, etc. compartmentalized. Thus came the expression we think in a box. For the past three weeks I have been in training at the YWCA as a volunteer in the domestic and sexual assault division there. To say that this has been intense, volatile, and eye-opening would be an understatement because it has been that and so much more. It has been a healing experience as I have had many thoughts, experiences and feelings validated through this training as the experts have come and talked to us about why victims stay, the judicial system and victims, and who are victims of sexual assault and domestic violence. We had a visit to the ER of the local hospital where we will volunteer for a tour, a discussion about our role as a hospital advocate and that of the forensic nurse and what they have experienced during the course of their careers.
Myths have been shattered, new facts have been brought to light and anyone with a preconceived notion of what domestic violence and sexual assault were all about no longer have them. We started 20 strong and after three weeks we are 12 strong (11 women and one man ranging from 18 to 60+ and racially, socially and economically diverse). This is not for the weak at heart, or for the great crusaders of the world because we find that you can't save everyone and might not save anyone at all. You can't hold on to all that you used to hold to as truth and be of service to those you might come in contact with; and if you have issues with race, sexual orientation, or economic status this is not the place for you because you service everyone who is in need of service. They do not discriminate on any level other than not being able to assist the abusers of the victims they are there to help.
We don't think like we used you, process information like we used to or even talk to each other like we used to. We push for more details, deeper understandings and sometimes justice for the victims past, present and future. We want to stand face to face with the legislatures and ask them what they were thinking, if they were thinking when they passed these laws. We know we can't save everyone so we have to settle for making a difference to one person at a time even if it's just to hold their hand, give them a shoulder to cry on or be a voice on the other end of the crisis hot line telling them what their options are but not knowing if they are at the point when they can or will break away. We hope that they will realize that they are not alone and that although we may not understand everything they are going through we are there.
We have learned that it takes a team to get the job done. There is no little "i" or big "u" in the organization. It is everyone coming together to do their part to make the difference.
It has been amazing to watch my mind open up to new ways of thinking and processing the information and getting to that "ah ha" moment before the instructor has brought us full circle. I love how she pushes us to "marinate, massage and chew" on the information before we speak about it. We let it soak in and it becomes personal. If you weren't passionate when you began, somewhere along the line you crossed over and I dare you to start spewing those myths around us because we might bite your head off in an effort to stifle your ignorance. Knowledge is power and they have given us so much knowledge, more than I had at any one time in the entire time I've been dealing with my own issues in the domestic violence arena.
We have 18 hours of training left and then we will be off to our respective areas of volunteering but the bonds we have formed will continue to grow as we reach out to each other to share our experiences, trade off shifts, pass along information and at times decompress with one another to help us digest what we have done during our time as a volunteer.
We have become circles allowing the information to flow freely without barriers and we are loving it. At least I know that I am.