by Mary Flynn, Staff Attorney at CARPLS
I became a sexual assault crisis advocate five years ago as a way to utilize my social work skills directly on behalf of survivors. Because I have learned so much from doing this work, I want to share the impact you can have on survivors, as well as the complexities of this often challenging, but fulfilling volunteer opportunity.
As a volunteer first responder with a local rape crisis center, I have spent many evenings and overnight sessions counseling and assisting sexual assault victims at any of the eight various hospitals in the western suburbs as often as four night shifts a month. Since I’m meeting people on what is often the worst day of their life, I try to help them overcome any feelings of guilt or shame, as no one deserves to experience this trauma. The 40-hours of volunteer training I received in this area has proven invaluable as I guide victims through the challenges they face at that moment in the hospital and beyond.
In Her Shoes
As part of the training, we play a game called
In Her Shoes
. You role play as a sexual assault survivor and randomly choose a card that describes the survivor’s personal situation—all of which are based upon real circumstances. You quickly understand that survivors come from every walk of life.
The survivor has to make choices: get help, do nothing, or do something more specific. As the game progresses, the choices become more difficult. The cards reveal setbacks survivors suffer, such as the hospital being short staffed or (in my character’s case) needing to leave to pick up one’s children.
By the end of the exercise, I had a very good understanding of the complicated nature of the decisions that survivors face, and the deficiencies in the current medical and legal systems.