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BAVO encourages students to volunteer at County’s rape crisis center S-O-S

| Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Saint Mary’s Belles Against Violence Office (BAVO), is calling on college students to become advocates for the Family Justice Center of St. Joseph’s County and S-O-S, the county’s Rape Crisis Center. Both are non-profit organizations, committed to offering services to victims of sexual assault, sexual abuse, stalking and domestic violence. Classes to become an advocate for the Family Justice Center and S-O-S began Jan. 27. The classes are held 6-9 p.m. every Tuesday and Thursday for six weeks.

Sexual assault and harassment has been brought into a greater concern and topic of issue in the recent years through new initiatives and forms of modern publicity. It is a topic of controversy and a very difficult topic to discuss for some.

“One in four women and one in ten men experiences relationship violence in their lifetime,” BAVO director Connie Adams said. “One in six women and one in 19 men experience stalking in her lifetime. One in six women and one in 33 men have experienced a sexual assault in their lifetime.

“These issues significantly impact our communities in America. Due to the impact, response services are critical to the overall health and well-being of communities.”

According to Adams, volunteers are crucial to the success of these organizations. Whether they are answering the 24/7 helpline or advocating and supporting victims seeking medical care and forensic examinations at a local hospital, their families and friends. Adams said volunteers also answer phones and complete intakes for clients at the office. They manage social media accounts and help plan, organize and advertise awareness at fundraising events.

According to the Family Justice Center website, the organization was established under the administration of George W. Bush as a part of the Family Justice Center Initiative. There are fifteen different centers nationwide including the one in St. Joseph’s County which opened its doors in 2007 to help eradicate all forms of domestic violence. The goal of this initiative is to improve victims access to services.

The number of instances of domestic violence and sexual assaults in St. Joseph’s County is significant, Adams said. Local police respond to approximately 8,000 domestic violence calls a year, according to the Family Justice Center website. The Department of Justice speculates that over half of partner violence is not reported to authorities. Overall the Department estimates that there are a total of 16,000 unreported and reported incidents within the county lines each year. According to the Center’s website, victims come from all different social statuses, races and religions. Even so, statistics reveal that most victims are women and most have children.

Adams said students will find there are many benefits to volunteering to become an advocate.

“It can be a powerful experience contributing to Michiana beyond our campus walls,” Adams said. “For those interested in helping professions, it’s also great exposure to support services.”

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