By Sierra Pope, VISTA Volunteer Coordinator
Did you know April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month? While Willis Dady does not provide services specific to survivors of sexual assault, we partner with agencies that do!
Riverview Center is one of these great organizations! We’ve collaborated to make a dual volunteer position where Riverview Center places trained advocates in our Overflow Shelter. This allows the volunteers to serve both agencies’ missions and be engaged in essential services. If you’re interested in learning more about getting involved in this program, reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
We reached out to Racheal Breyer, Iowa Volunteer Coordinator at Riverview to get some more information about their programs and organization. Check out the Q&A below!
Q: What is your organization’s mission?
A: Riverview Center offers 100% free and confidential services for survivors of sexual violence and their families in Iowa, and for survivors of sexual and domestic violence in Illinois. Services include 24-hour crisis hotlines, legal, medical and social service advocacy, long- and short-term counseling, trauma-informed therapy, transition and basic needs assistance, and more. Care is specialized and client-centered based on an individual’s unique needs and circumstances.
Q: How do you identify communities or individuals to work with?
A: While anyone can be a survivor of sexual violence, we know that at-risk communities are at a higher risk of being affected by sexual violence. Riverview Center works with our community partners to provide survivor-centered care for everyone by performing community outreach, presentations, and advocacy.
Q: What services are offered to those communities or individuals?
A: Riverview Center provides free and confidential advocacy, therapy, and community education services. With the assistance of our wonderful volunteers, we provide medical, legal, and general advocacy. Our staff and volunteers are on-call every day and are available to respond to hospitals or law enforcement organizations to provide advocacy. Advocates, both staff and volunteers, are available to support survivors while they go through a sexual assault examination kit and to support them if they decide to talk to law enforcement.
Advocates at Riverview Center strive to create a safe place for individuals to share their experiences if they choose to, and are available to provide peer counseling by validating survivors and their experiences or discussing how they are affected. Our therapists are available to provide free therapy services for survivors of all ages and provide a variety of therapeutic techniques, such as play therapy or EMDR. Our advocates are available to provide education to better equip the community with tools and knowledge on how sexual violence can be prevented by opening up conversations in age-appropriate ways on body safety, healthy relationships, empathy, or more.
Riverview Center also has a hotline where there are trained individuals available to assist with processing, questions, or resources to anyone who calls needing support by calling 888-557-0310 at any time.
Q: Do you have a specific story you could share about direct impact?
A: After facilitating a body safety presentation at a school, a student learned that what they were experiencing was child abuse.
They told their school counselor who was able to connect them with an advocate at Riverview Center. The parents of the survivor also wanted someone they could process their feelings with and ask questions, so they also received an advocate to work with.
The advocates worked with the survivor and their family and helped them process their emotions in regards to the trauma they experienced and provided support when they met with investigators and later a county attorney. The advocates assisted them in receiving resources in their community to help meet their basic needs and provided the survivor and their family with case updates by collaborating with law enforcement and the county attorney. The advocates provided support during depositions and trial preparations, and both advocates were in the courtroom during trial proceedings to provide support as the survivor testified. The judge allowed the survivor's advocate to sit next to them while they testified and answered questions. At the sentencing, the advocate read aloud the survivor's victim impact statement to the judge where they shared how the abuse affected them. After court proceedings were finalized, the advocates continued providing support and counseling services until the survivor and their family decided they were ready to "graduate" services.
Q: How are community members involved in your organization? (Donors, volunteers, board members, etc)
A: Riverview Center cannot do our work without the assistance of our community members, such as donors, volunteers, and our board members. Many of the programs that Riverview clients depend on are possible only through the financial support of generous people in our communities, their contributions can and will make a critical difference in someone’s life. Our volunteers assist by responding to hospital calls to provide medical advocacy for survivors of sexual assault by providing emotional support, education, and notifying the survivor of their rights while helping protect those rights. Volunteers also assist with development and community outreach by assisting with fundraising events, helping staff with tabling events, facilitating presentations, and also servicing as a resource liaison with our wonderful community partners!
Q: How would you like to see community members get involved?
A: Community members can get involved in a variety of ways. Our volunteer program is foundational to moving our outcomes through helping with office tasks, engaging in community outreach and development, or by working directly with survivors. Every skill and experience is welcome through our doors and in our work to creating a community free of violence. We firmly believe that the best place to start in advocacy is education; we encourage all community members to learn more about sexual violence in their community and the resources that exist within them. Do your part this April during Sexual Assault Awareness Month and have conversations with your support system, speak out about sexual trauma, and believe survivors of sexual violence.
Q: Is there anything you wish more people knew about your organization or the issues you are trying to solve?
A: Riverview Center provides survivor-focused services to anyone affected by sexual violence in 14 counties in Iowa, and domestic and sexual violence in 2 counties in Illinois. Throughout the global pandemic, we never stopped providing support to our communities as our priorities are the survivors and our communities. Our services may adapt and change to keep staff and the individuals we serve safe but we will always remain as a support for our communities and survivors throughout mobile advocacy services. We truly meet survivors and their families where they are at and know that when you work with us, we believe you. To access our services give us a call at 888-557-0310. To learn more about our Riverview Center visit https://riverviewcenter.org/ or find us on Facebook!
Thank you, Rachel, for answering our questions and working with our clients through this shared volunteer effort. If you’re interested in learning more about getting involved in this program, reach out to email@example.com for more information.
Sierra is the VISTA Volunteer Coordinator at Willis Dady Homeless Services. If you are interested in volunteering reach to her at firstname.lastname@example.org, give her a call at 319-362-7555, and fill out a volunteer application at willisdady.org/volunteer