It was the shrill ringing of my pager that jarred me out of the deep sleep I had been enjoying. The clock beside my bed read 3:30 as I fumbled around in the dark, reaching for the insistent pager. As I saw the code that flashed on its tiny screen, my heart sank. I thought of the sleet that had been falling as I had fallen asleep a few hours before, and of the warmth of my cozy bed. The very last thing I wanted to do at that moment was to get up and go out in the cold.
Unfortunately, there was little choice; I was the only Crisis Companion available during the week between Christmas and New Year. Within a few minutes, I was dressed and en route to the hospital to pick up a woman and her small children, on the run from an abusive husband, and take them to our shelter several miles out of town. As both a hotline operator and Crisis Companion for a community organization called Avalon, I had been trained to be an active listener, crisis counselor, and advocate for survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault. I thought of all the training I had received, as well as the passion which had driven and encouraged my work with Avalon, as I neared the emergency room of the hospital and prepared to meet my newest clients.
Every 15 seconds a woman is battered. 1 in 3 women and 1 in 10 men will be sexually assaulted during their lifetimes.
4 women in the United States are killed every day by their husbands or male partners. When I first heard these statistics in a Women’s Studies course my Freshman year, I was astounded and thoroughly incensed. The more I read, the more committed I became to doing something which would bring about a positive change for survivors of sexual assault and domestic violence. It was then that I learned about and began working with Avalon, which was active on campus and in the community. Through its outreach programs, Avalon is dedicated to educating the community about the issues of sexual assault and domestic violence. It also offers a shelter, as well as advocacy and education, to survivors and their families.
As a volunteer for Avalon I have answered a crisis hotline, acted as a court advocate, helped clients apply for food stamps, and been on call in the hospital to work with women and children. While it would be flippant to say that I have enjoyed my work with Avalon, I have been profoundly affected by the women and children I have met through the organization. Working with Avalon has been the most fulfilling thing I have ever done. It is wonderful to see a woman that I have worked with, filled with pride when she finds a job and realizes that she is capable of supporting her family. It is indescribably uplifting to connect with a shy, withdrawn child in the shelter and see her smile as I read her a story. The work is seldom easy; the hours are often unpredictable and inconvenient, and the dedication required is sometimes overwhelming.
But the rewards are extraordinary.
My work with Avalon has convinced me that I have the passion to pursue a career as a social worker, working especially with the issues concerning sexual assault and domestic violence. After my graduation from college, I plan to go on to receive a Master’s degree in Social Work, so as to build on the work I have done with Avalon.