The NYJL and Sexual Assault Awareness Month

The NYJL and Sexual Assault Awareness Month

With April here, we can finally celebrate spring. It is also a month to celebrate how the New York Junior League works to raise awareness of sexual assault and domestic violence against both men and women. In honor of Sexual Assault Awareness Month, NYJL Crisis Intervention volunteer Kelsey Bishop has shared a firsthand account of her first on-call shift as a volunteer on the committee.

April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month—the goal is to raise public awareness about sexual violence and to educate the community on how to prevent it. The campaign to raise sexual assault awareness began as early as the 1970s when women in England held protests against the violence they encountered as they walked the streets at night. Around the same time, the NYJL expanded its volunteer focus to raise awareness about sexual assault and domestic violence. It was not until April 2001 that the United States first observed Sexual Assault Awareness Month nationally.

The NYJL provides a positive force for the betterment of women and children in the city and the state. One of the many ways the NYJL strives for change is by supporting sexual assault awareness through the Crisis Intervention committee. Volunteers of Crisis Intervention undergo extensive training in order to assist domestic violence and sexual assault survivors in New York City hospitals. Through New York Presbyterian Hospital’s Domestic & Other Violence Emergencies (DOVE) program, trained NYJL DOVE volunteers work together with other DOVE volunteers, on call 7 days a week, 365 days per year, to act as advocates and counselors for survivors of sexual assault and domestic violence during their stay in the emergency room.

I joined the Crisis Intervention committee this year and completed my training in February. During my training, I worked and connected with other men and women within and outside of the NYJL who share the same passion for helping and serving others. The training program respected and celebrated each volunteer’s unique past and individual skill set and taught us how to use those qualities to provide support and advocate for the survivors. We further learned to respect each survivor’s unique past and provide him or her with unbiased support and information. DOVE volunteers learn to support and advocate for a wide range of traumas, including intimate partner violence, stranger rape, acquaintance and date rape, partner and marital rape, and childhood sexual abuse.

While every NYJL advocate serves a shift each month, she may not always receive a call. My first ever on-call shift happened in February—and I was immediately called in on a sexual assault case. The survivor called the police and had spoken to them before we had arrived at the emergency department. The survivor was also later questioned by the Special Victims Unit (SVU). A drug-induced kit and rape kit were performed: the survivor would await the results of the drug-induced kit, and SVU deemed that until further information was available, they did not have enough information to process the regular rape kit.

Ann Dragovits, Crisis Intervention co-chair, and I spent that Saturday showing love through service. My first DOVE experience was extremely rewarding. Ann and I worked together to help support and advocate for the survivor and her family and friends during their time of need. We worked hand in hand with the amazing hospital staff and NYPD Special Victims officers to provide the survivor with the best quality care, support, and resources during her time in the emergency room—it was a poignant example of how New Yorkers come together to support one another.

Being a DOVE volunteer has already been such an awarding experience. Through my training and service, I have developed wonderful relationships with other DOVE volunteers and have gained a great amount of respect for hospital staff and NYPD officers.

The Crisis Intervention volunteer’s interaction with the survivor ends upon leaving the emergency department. The thorough training provided by DOVE positions volunteers to empower the survivor with the knowledge and support he or she needs to begin the healing process. This can include safety planning, information about counseling resources, and reassurances that the survivor did the right thing by seeking medical attention. Crisis Intervention committee volunteers impact the lives of survivors far beyond what happens within an on-call shift.