In the September of 2011, I started training to become a volunteer at WAVAW. I was 23, and at the time had no idea how much my life would change because of it. When you consider yourself to be an already “socially conscious” person, you feel like everything you learn will be somewhat of a refresher, or that you wouldn’t be too surprised by anything that comes up in training. But I was seriously, seriously wrong.
I knew about the subordination of women throughout history, but neglected to realize how prevalent it still is today, and somewhat foolishly, I always thought that Western women didn’t have it “that bad”. The first time during training that it really hit me was in a seminar given by Dalya (WAVAW’s Victim Services Coordinator). I remember crowding around the computer in our training room while watching the trailer for Dreamworlds 3. There was a scene where a whole bunch of men were spraying women with alcohol while grabbing on them and ripping off their clothes during a parade in New York City. I started to tear up. The worst part was that side by side with this malicious attack on women was a music video that portrayed the exact same thing, but with women who looked happy to be in that position. I started to realize how much of this I had never really thought about and realized how scary it was that things like this had been ingrained in me as normal since I was a little girl.
Training went on and I learned how to comfort and support women who had been sexually assaulted, how to budget as a single mother on welfare, how to instill hope in people that were considering suicide. I had all my preconceptions about HIV transmission thrown out the window, learned about which transition houses were best for women with children and without, and gained valuable knowledge about organizations dedicated to ending violence against women. And I learned something new every single training session.
But, I think the most important thing WAVAW has taught me is to really challenge and think critically about things that are perceived as “normal” behavior in our society. I’m more comfortable calling people out on rape “jokes”. I’m more comfortable challenging people about stereotyping, and the use of racist and misogynistic language and to be honest, I’ve gained more confidence in myself as a woman. So, if you have the time to dedicate to volunteering, please do it with an awesome organization like WAVAW, because the personal benefit is seriously invaluable.
Written by Aubrina Culp, WAVAW Crisis Line Volunteer
WAVAW’s Volunteer Training Program for Crisis Line Volunteers is an intensive 11 week (approximately 100 hours) training program which prepares Volunteers to work with survivors of sexual assault and other forms of violence. The training covers important areas such as support skills, the effects of violence, crisis intervention, and other topics that address the social and economic contexts of violence against women, all using WAVAW’s anti-oppression analysis. If you are interested in finding out more about the Volunteer Training Program, please visit the Crisis Line Volunteers page.