Thursday, June 2, 2011

Volunteer work .....

"Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has." --Margaret Mead
Considering that the media mostly concerns itself with publishing negative news items only I try and write most blogs about things that for a moment will hopefully counteract the terrible stories out there and make the reader smile.  I hesitated in writing this blog but then I remembered my own disdain for censorship so am not going to censor myself. 


In the past few weeks a rash of stories have permeated the media about men (financially powerful so think that is part of the story for the media) sexually attacking or abusing women, 2 extremely powerful men who both decided that a woman who was in a housekeeping position in a hotel was there to provide any service that they deemed appropriate, regardless of what these women may have said or done to disavow that notion.  I  believe the women and hope justice is served.  The other incident that had me horrified was one from the early Tuesday morning NYC news where a young guy is seen with a choke hold, dragging a woman on a surveillance tape.  He dragged her on an empty stairwell and then sexually assaulted her....the woman is 85 years old!  I too gasped when I first heard it.  


I spent 10 years doing volunteer work with an organization called at first RACI and then SAVI.  This organization was mostly volunteers, with a limited staff who was paid very little.  They provided at first rape crisis intervention at a few Manhattan hospitals and then branched out to Queens and included domestic violence crisis counseling.  I was looking for volunteer work and found this, admittedly the subject seemed a bit scary to me but the time commitment worked.  In my training I went through so many emotions, horror, disgust at the people who did this, anger and sadness that this happened with such frequency.  I was surprised at how often women were used in the world as a war terror tactic (at the time Serbians were just creating rape camps of Muslim women...as I write I find that you can change those country/religion designations since then with too many others).  


Once I completed the training I used to bunk with friends in the city when the service was not yet offered in Queens to be able to on call my one night a month.  I dreaded the beeper that I carried...for it would mean another person was in the ER, another person violated in a way that takes away all of your control.  It is easy to dismiss rape as a sexual act but it is an act of control and domination that uses sex as a weapon.  I met some really brave women in those emergency rooms and also some really broken people who had been abused, often not for the first or last time, by the people they chose to love.  The woman who runs the program asked me to be a trainer of new volunteers for 9 of my years with the group and this allowed me to meet so many incredible people who all felt they wanted to give their time to this cause.  I have trouble saying I miss it, but I do, I have trouble because in saying that I do not want to imply that I wish I had a case to be called to but because I felt that maybe for a moment I may have actually provided control and safety back to the person on that table that so needed it.  I miss it for the amazing people who I met during those years; volunteers, survivors, hospital staff, and yes even many of the officers who handled these cases. 


I do not know what will happen with any of the cases above, I am interested in justice but more so I am interested to know and hope that these survivors all had a crisis counselor who reminded them that no matter what the verdict says what happened was not their fault, that they found someone who gave them back their moment of control and was a sympathetic listener.  Unlike the media I choose not to focus on the attacks, attacker or the dark side we see in these acts but instead I choose to remember the strength and goodness that average people gave voluntarily during their free time to someone in need and the resilience of the victims who become survivors. 

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