May 5, 2017
Thames Schoenvogel never knows exactly what to expect when she answers a call to the YWCA’s domestic violence crisis hotline, but her greatest desire is to let the woman on the phone know she’s not alone.
“So often in the calls I take, someone just needs a sympathetic ear,” Schoenvogel said. “She may not be ready to leave, but I can let her know that what’s happening is not OK, we can brainstorm together and I can offer her resources. I may not solve her problem that day, but I can help her get one step closer to a safe, healthy place."
YWCA Central Alabama is seeking volunteers to help answer the 24-Hour Crisis Hotline between 8:30 a.m. and 5:30 p.m. Monday through Friday. Shifts are in 3-4 hour increments weekly or every other week.
“Every 15 seconds, a woman is battered by an intimate partner,” said Ray Richardson, hotline coordinator. “Last year alone, our volunteers helped respond to 2,300 calls, so they make a tremendous impact.”
Crisis Hotline volunteers help link domestic violence victims to life-saving information about shelter, legal assistance and other community resources. They offer crisis intervention, assist callers with safety planning and provide support.
Schoenvogel, who has been a hotline volunteer for five years, said she was looking for a way to give back that would allow her to directly impact lives. “I knew nothing about domestic violence coming into this and I was a little apprehensive, but the training more than prepared me,” she said.
Many of the callers have nowhere else to turn because abusers often isolate their victims from family members and friends, Richardson said. “Most of the women who call feel defeated and don’t think they have any other avenues. Once they learn what options and resources are available and that they will have a support system, you can hear the hope in their voices.”
Volunteers must be at least 19, have strong communication skills and be open-minded. “We need people who can respond with empathy, warmth and patience,” Richardson said, adding that a 3-month commitment is desired.
Those interested in volunteering must submit an application, complete an interview process and participate in training. “A staff member is always present with our volunteers to provide assistance and guidance or to take over a call if necessary,” Richardson said.
Schoenvogel said she can’t think of a volunteer experience that is more rewarding. "I see myself doing this for many years to come. People in our community are dealing with so much, and this is an easy way to ease a burden and help them get out of awful situations,” she said.