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University of Iowa News Release

 

Aug. 3, 2007

Deadline Is Aug. 30 For Rape Victim Advocacy Program Volunteer Training

Trained, compassionate volunteers who can advocate for sexual assault survivors are needed now more than ever following a recent rash of assaults by strangers in the Iowa City area, said Tara Wood, volunteer coordinator for the University of Iowa Rape Victim Advocacy Program (RVAP).

RVAP will begin its 32-hour Advocate Training Program Monday, Sept. 10 to prepare area volunteers to provide support and assistance to victims and survivors of sexual assault. Since training classes are limited to 12 volunteers, those who are interested should apply as soon as possible. The deadline to register is Thursday, Aug. 30. Volunteers who are bilingual in Spanish and English are especially needed, Wood said, adding they want to increase the level of services offered to Spanish speakers.

"With all the stranger assaults in the community -- both the recent ones and some assaults from May 2007 that are related -- we've had a lot of women wondering what they can do to feel safe as well as help others," Wood said. "Becoming an advocate is a great way to empower oneself and help others."

During the training program, volunteers are taught all aspects of sexual assault including the following: sociological and cultural factors of a "rape culture," victim impact (physical, psychological, spiritual), helping significant others, offender typology (grooming behaviors and abusive relationships), Rape Trauma Syndrome, childhood sexual abuse, suicide, medical and forensic exams, legal advocacy and cultural competency.

Throughout training, emphasis is placed on boundaries, ethical issues and the importance of self-care. Advocates are taught aspects of both the active listening model and the Developmental Helping Model of counseling. All volunteers practice these listening and counseling skills in a variety of role-plays designed to replicate typical calls received on RVAP's 24-hour crisis lines or in-person calls for medical/legal advocacy.

After successfully completing training, advocates provide support, information and referrals on the local Rape Crisis Line and the Iowa Sexual Abuse Hotline, as well as respond to calls for supporting a survivor at the hospital or law enforcement. Advocates work from home, and take shifts that are easy to fit into their busy schedules, Wood said.

Wood said that volunteers are vital to providing support to everyone who needs it. Currently, RVAP has 40 volunteers, and Wood said they hope to train at least 12 more in the next training session.

"The Rape Victim Advocacy Program is able to provide a variety of programming and counseling services, along with 24 hour crisis advocacy, because we have a group of dedicated and active volunteers," Wood said. "Without volunteers, we would not be able to provide this variety of services. Our highly trained volunteers not only serve to improve our agency, but they are a positive, supportive presence in the community."

Those interested in applying for the RVAP Volunteer Program may contact Wood at volunteer-coordinator-rvap@uiowa.edu or 319-335-6001.

For more information on RVAP, located at 320 S. Linn St. in Iowa City, visit http://www.rvap.org. The site provides information about statistics, education, victim services and resources. The 24-hour Rape Crisis Line number, at 319-335-6000, offers free and confidential information, support, advocacy and counseling to victim/survivors of sexual assault and their partners, friends, and family members. Trained sexual assault advocates provide information, phone counseling, in-person medical and legal advocacy and resources and referrals. The Iowa Sexual Abuse Hotline is 1-800-284-7821.

STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa News Services, 300 Plaza Centre One, Suite 371, Iowa City, Iowa 52242-2500.

CONTACTS: Tara Wood, 319-335-6001, volunteer-coordinator-rvap@uiowa.edu, Lois J. Gray, University News Services, 319-384-0077, lois-gray@uiowa.edu