Volunteers Help Empower Rape Victims

ELIZABETH—Michelle calls it the day that changed her life. Three years ago, the Summit resident saw a flyer at her local grocery store, asking for volunteers to serve at the Union County Rape Crisis Center. The idea struck a chord and she signed up.

“Since becoming a volunteer I’ve learned so much, working with an amazing group of people,” said Michelle, whose last name has been withheld in accordance with confidentiality policy at the center. “We help people who are trying to cope with one of the toughest times of their lives.”

Prospective volunteers can call the Rape Crisis Center at 908-233-7273. A training session for new volunteers will begin in February.

The Rape Crisis Center is part of Union County’s Department of Human Services. It has provided secure, confidential support services for rape victims since 1984.

Most often, the center is called upon by local police departments or hospitals when a rape victim asks for an advocate. Other calls come through the center’s 24-hour hotline at 908-233-7273.

One of the first things Michelle noticed was the large number of people who deal with the aftermath of rape by themselves.

“It was a surprise to see how often people go to the hospital alone for their rape exam,” she said. “Sometimes they’re ashamed, or they feel that they won’t be believed, or the perpetrator is a family member. Sometimes they just don’t have anybody.”

Volunteers at the Rape Crisis Center fill that void. Often, they are the only ones who accompany the victim during a police interview, at the hospital, or in court.

“We help the victims start taking control of the situation, and we are there to provide information and support their decisions,” said Michelle.

Volunteers at the Rape Crisis Center commit to attend a training course, and to be available for three on-call shifts monthly for one year. To be eligible, prospective volunteers must have a working vehicle, be over 18 years old, and reside in Union County.

“When a person tells you, ‘I don’t know how I could have gotten through this without you,’ then you know that you have really made a difference,” said Michelle.

To get details about volunteering, call the Rape Crisis Center at 908-233-7273 or email rcc@ucnj.org for details. More information about the Rape Crisis Center is available at unioncountyrapecrisiscenter.blogspot.com.

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