Volunteer Spotlight: Karen, Volunteer Crisis Advocate

In this month's staff spotlight, we are delighted to introduce a remarkable member of our team, who has been making an impact through her role as a volunteer crisis advocate: Karen R.

With a compassionate heart, she is dedicated to supporting people in times of need. She embodies the essence of SACASA’s mission to support and uplift our community during vulnerable times.

Karen’s Journey into Crisis Advocacy:
Shortly after completing her master's degree in social work, Karen was driven by a desire to continue making a positive impact beyond her clinical role. She learned of the opportunity to volunteer at SACASA from her colleague, SACASA’s Director Katlyn Monje. Karen was inspired by the possibility of using her counseling skills to support individuals in crisis. She has now been a volunteer crisis advocate for three years.

The Responsibilities of a Crisis Advocate:
As a crisis advocate, Karen has a complex role. She provides support and crisis intervention to anyone who has been sexually assaulted or has been affected by sexual violence. Crisis Advocate volunteers provide crisis intervention, advocacy, information and referrals for victims of sexual assault and domestic violence. Their support looks different for the individualized needs of the person they are supporting, but can include medical and safety planning, understanding victims’ rights, navigating complex emotions, and finding ways to regain power and control as they move forward with healing.

Challenges and Motivations:
While Karen finds fulfillment in her role, it is not without its challenges. The emotional toll of working with individuals in crisis can be draining. However, she is motivated by the need for crisis advocates and the impact they can make in people's lives.

"I see how important this work is," said Karen.

Monthly advocate meetings provide her with the opportunity to collaborate with fellow advocates, find support, share insights and continually improve her approach.

Advice for Aspiring Crisis Advocates:
For those considering joining the ranks of crisis advocates, Karen offers valuable advice.

“I encourage prospective volunteers to engage with staff, ask questions and attend training sessions,” said Karen.

Aspiring advocates can shadow team members to gain firsthand experience and a better understanding of this unique and important role.

“You will always have support from SACASA’s team and will be made comfortable before you are on your own answering calls.”

Balancing Compassion and Self-Care:
To maintain her emotional health, Karen emphasizes the importance of balance. She finds peace in the outdoors, particularly enjoying activities like kayaking and spending time with her puppy, Ziva. Her involvement in church activities, including singing in the choir, also brings her community and joy.

“I have to remember to take time for play.”

Bridging Bias and Misconceptions:
Since beginning her role at SACASA, Karen has noticed common societal biases towards sexual assault survivors that show up in her own life. Her new knowledge helps her to check her own biases and educate family and friends to reduce the blame and shame placed on survivors.

Another misconception Karen addresses is that survivors must consent to exams based on doctors' orders. She highlights that survivors have the right to make decisions about their own health care. And, she educates hospital staff on the importance of allowing individuals to make choices that best suit their individual needs and comfort level (in non-emergency situations).

A Final Note:
Karen’s dedication and unwavering commitment to supporting those in crisis is truly commendable. Her selflessness and eagerness to assist at any hour demonstrate the essence of the volunteer crisis advocate role. We extend our heartfelt gratitude to Karen for her contributions to our community.

“Karen’s compassion and genuine drive to help others is so apparent in the work she does. We are so fortunate to have her contributing her skillset to this team and the SACASA mission," said Katlyn Monje, SACASA's director.

If you are interested in joining our team of dedicated crisis advocates or learning more about the impact they make, feel free to reach out to SACASA at info@codac.org. Together, we can continue to create a safer, more supportive community for people impacted by sexual violence.