I attended an orientation yesterday afternoon for people who think they may be interested in becoming an advocate for victims of sexual assault. This is something I’ve contemplated off and on since my attack, and when I was recently telling my story, it was suggested that, perhaps, the time had come to think more seriously about it. At the time, my first response was “I’m not ready yet.” The more I thought about it though, the more the idea grew on me.
First up, I had to google sexual assault advocacy to find out what, if anything, was even available. I immediately found an organization that sounded really good. The more I read, the better it sounded. Then I realized they were located in New Jersey. As good as they seemed, I figure that’s a bit too far away to do me any good. So it was back to google with San Diego added to my search. I finally got to where I needed to be, which in this area is CCS, Center for Community Solutions. The mission of CCS is “to end relationship and sexual violence by being a catalyst for caring communities and social justice.” And its vision is “for all people to live full, free, expressive and empowered loves in a safe, healthy, vibrant and peaceful community.”
“CCS was first established in 1969 as the Center for Women’s Studies and Services(CWSS), a grassroots feminist organization that helped women overcome obstacles preventing them from achieving independence, economic stability and growth, and self-sufficiency. Over the years, in response to community needs, CWWS narrowed its focus to address three core issues—relationship violence, sexual assault and the prevention of both. In the mid 1990s, CWSS adopted a new name, Center for Community Solutions, to acknowledge that the elimination of sexual assault and relationship violence will occur only if everyone in the community becomes a part of the solution.” This all sounded good and once I was able to read about all the volunteer opportunities, I thought, “Yes, now is the right time. It has been a little over four years and I think I’d be able to use my experience to help others in a similar situation.”
The times I had to choose from were 3-4:30p or 5-6:30p at their Escondido office. From where I live, neither of these was a great option, mainly because of traffic. I decided on the earlier time (less traffic getting there) and planned on dinner at Fatburger, which would be a huge treat since it is the only one left in this area and I particularly love their milkshakes! I thought by the time I finished with dinner that traffic would have let up. Ha!
While there are many volunteer opportunities with CCS, the only one I was/am interested in is SART, Sexual Assault Response Team. “SART volunteers provide immediate, in-person support for sexual assault victims during the forensic exam process. All SART volunteers must complete a 60-hour Sexual Assault and Domestic Violence Crisis Intervention Training and a Live Scan criminal background. A twelve-month commitment of 4 six-hour shifts per month is required.” Again, all this sounded fine with me, so the next step was to attend the orientation, which I did yesterday.
All day yesterday I had a stomach ache. I attributed it nerves more than anything else. The actual orientation was no big deal, much to my relief. After listening to all the available positions for volunteers, I realized a few things: first of all, they really do not need help in my area of town, and because one must be a 20-minute (ideally, but no more than 30 minutes) commute away, even if I wanted to help out in North or East County, I really cannot; secondly, my experience of being sexually assaulted really isn’t an asset in their minds; and lastly, the way the system currently operates there does not seem to even be a place for me. What I think is important, what would have been incredibly helpful to me, is an advocate who is there every step of the process…from the forensic exam all the way through the court and sentencing phase, someone who will go with the victim to each and every court date, who can help explain what is going on and what is likely to happen, someone who has actually been through it and knows firsthand, not just in theory. This type of volunteer position does not exist, at least not at CSS.
When I got home last night after my yummy dinner and one hour of traffic, I still had a stomach ache. (I thought it might have been the giant milkshake that was so thick I had to eat it with a spoon.) J and I talked about it for a long time and at the end my questions were, “What am I supposed to be doing to help other women who have been sexually assaulted? Why did I go through it if not to help others? How can I make a difference if no one wants my help?” J wisely said that the answer would come to me, maybe not today or tomorrow or even next week, but it will come. So I went to sleep, not feeling that great about it, but not as upset as I had been. This morning, though, I woke up with a knot in the right side of my upper back. This is a place that I’ve never had an issue with before. As soon as I felt it, I knew. You cannot get a much clearer message than that. I know, with certainty, that CCS, though a wonderful agency, doing important work, is not for me and I am not for them. I also now understand, clearly, that as ready as I’d like to be, my body has other ideas. The body really does keep the score and it was/is telling me loud and clear that now is not the time.
To be completely honest here, I feel like I’ve failed. I thought I was ready. I told everyone in my (amazing!) women’s group and my Thursday morning beach yoga class (also pretty amazing, I might add) what I was doing and every single woman was so supportive and so encouraging, and now I have to go back and tell them all that it isn’t the right time yet and I was not received with the open arms I kind of thought I would be welcomed with. So for now I will continue my journey and helping process by writing on this site and will keep my ears open for the kind of opportunity I am seeking.