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Volunteers needed to help domestic, sexual abuse survivors

The nonprofit Response is hosting a virtual training for new volunteer advocates beginning May 11

By Lauren Glendenning
For The Aspen Times

Editor’s Note: Sponsored content brought to you by Response

Response is looking for more local volunteers to be that listener and safety net for those in crisis.
24-hour hotline

If you or someone you know is experiencing domestic or sexual abuse, Response has a 24-hour crisis helpline in the Roaring Fork Valley offering immediate response for victims any day of the week, any hour of the day.

To access this confidential crisis assistance, call 970-925-SAFE (7233).

The effects of domestic abuse or sexual assault can feel overwhelming for victims, especially when they feel trapped in an unsafe situation.

Response, a nonprofit that helps victims of domestic and sexual abuse in the upper Roaring Fork Valley, provides services that offer safety, comfort and relief for victims who need support.

In 2019, 181 clients  used the services provided by Response, and 250 people called their 24 hour crisis helpline.

Survivors of abuse who come to Response find a non-judgemental listener, referrals to other agencies, court and medical accompaniment and many other types of support. Many of these survivors were in the midst of a life-changing crisis and Response was their first stop on their journey of recovery.

Response is looking for more local volunteers to help those in crisis. An online training for volunteer advocates begins May 11 (see factbox).

Domestic and sexual abuse in the valley

One in three women, and one in four men, in the United States have experienced some form of physical violence by an intimate partner, according to The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence. Those statistics ring true locally, according to Response staff.

“There’s a common misperception that victims fit into some kind of mold,” said Response’s Executive Director Shannon Meyer. “Anyone could be experiencing abuse— your neighbor, colleague, family member — yet you may have no idea.”

Another misperception is that domestic abuse is always physical — it can also be psychological, emotional and financial. Domestic abuse impacts people from every education level, socioeconomic class, race, gender, sexual orientation, single or married.

“Abuse can touch anyone and victims don’t fit into any obvious stereotypes,” she said. “A lot of times, people are surprised by that.”

Rising need for more local volunteers

Response operates a 24/7 crisis help line staffed almost entirely by trained volunteers who work 12-hour on-call shifts on weeknights and weekends. 

There were 250 calls to the helpline in 2019 — however Response has been struggling to get enough volunteers to cover shifts.

“It’s really crucial that we have trained volunteers taking shifts on the crisis line. Volunteers give our full time staff a break and keeps them, our most important resource, from burning out.”

Volunteers must complete a 30-hour training program that teaches volunteers everything they need to know to respond to a victim’s immediate needs when they call in crisis. There is always a backup staff member on-call who can handle more complicated calls should a volunteer need assistance.

“The training provided to become an advocate prepares you to support and empower those in crisis, as well as expands a culture that provides safe harbor to survivors of violence and abuse,” said Greg Shaffran, a proud volunteer for Response since 2014.

Response asks its volunteers to take two on-call shifts per month, so the commitment is relatively minimal. The requirement for the on-call shift is pretty simple: volunteers must remain within cell range during their shifts to ensure they don’t miss a call. This means you might have to skip a backcountry skiing day or even areas of the ski resorts where cell phone coverage is unreliable. “Our volunteer advocates serve a very important role of stabilizing a caller until they can connect with one of our staff advocates during office hours triaging until the callers can connect with our staff advocates,” Meyer said. “Volunteers need to be able to listen, understand the dynamics of what’s happening, tell them what resources are available and help them into a safe position until they can talk to our staff.”

Response needs more volunteers

Are you interested in helping victims of domestic and sexual abuse in our valley? Response needs volunteers to be available ideally for two 12-hour on-call shifts per month. Crisis line calls are routed to volunteers’ cell phones, so all you have to do is remain within cell range during your shifts. A 30-hour training is required and during the current pandemic restrictions, the training will be offered entirely online for the first time. The next training begins May 11. Any interested volunteers should join an informational meeting via Zoom on May 4 at 3:30 p.m.

“I volunteer with Response because I believe in the transformative power of showing up for another person during times of deep sadness, confusion or fear,” said Response volunteer Shannon Birzon. “I feel eternally grateful for those who have done the same for me, and volunteering is a way for me to give back to my community.”

If you’re interested in volunteering, visit http://www.responsehelps.org/volunteer, call 970-920-5357, or email info@responsehelps.org.


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