By Vonda Henderson for Forsyth Family Magazine (October 2017)

Domestic violence happens anytime, anywhere, and often with no warning signals. The volunteer program at Family Services includes a dedicated, well-trained team that covers the crisis phones after work hours and provides access to emergency support and shelter, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Meet a few of the staff and volunteers:

Linda Witherspoon is a Victim Advocate/Case Manager, and in her words acts as “one of the first lines of assistance.” Linda shared that she provides resources for victims and families in crisis by assisting with court advocacy, resource links, and providing a listening ear. She is also bilingual, allowing her to reach community members who may not know where to start or who may feel that language is a major barrier to seeking help. Her position allows her to work with a dedicated group of volunteers. “I do this work because it is time to stop the silence and shame of domestic violence. I do this for my children and our young people. I do this to return stolen voices,” Linda explained.

Susan W. Wiles is on staff at Family Services as the Senior Administrator and Customer Service Assistant. In addition to being the first person most people encounter at Family Services Gateway offices, she volunteers on the Sexual Assault Crisis Line. As a volunteer for Family Services’ Sexual Assault Crisis Line, she acts as a volunteer victim advocate when a sexual assault victim comes to the Novant or Baptist Hospital emergency room. She advocates for the victim in dealing with staff, law enforcement and sometimes family. “Our main function is to ensure the patient is comforted and, above all, realizes that what happened is not her fault,” Susan stated. Information provided by Family Services is given to the patient and reviewed with them before they leave. Susan said, “The reason I have volunteered for the past 14 years is that I quickly became aware of the support I could be to victims. Left on their own, they usually turn inward and blame themselves for this horrific crime. I encourage counseling at Family Services because it makes a huge difference in their recovery.”

Candice Miller is a Victim Advocate/Case Manager for Family Services Children’s Advocacy Center. The Children’s Advocacy Center is a safe, neutral, child-friendly environment where children, some as young as three years old, and their families receive support and services that are needed as a result of child maltreatment, such as child abuse, sexual assault, or neglect.  Candice indicated that her role is to create a warm and friendly environment that promotes openness and trust.  As an advocate, she meets with the non-offending caregiver and assesses the overall needs of the family, while helping to reduce trauma for a child and family members and to improve outcomes.   She also assists the volunteer program with scheduling for the volunteer sexual assault and domestic violence crisis lines, distributing and receiving crisis phones, volunteer training, and documentation. “Volunteers are valuable to Family Services,” she explained. “Volunteers assist with the hospital calls and provide victims with resources.  I want to be a part of making a positive impact on our children, families, and the community as a whole.”

Interested in volunteering?

Volunteer training is provided bi-annually for new volunteers and as a refresher for the current volunteers. The program covers crisis intervention for domestic violence and sexual assault, and includes training on active listening skills (empathy for callers); resources available, including shelter; details on danger assessments and safety planning guidelines (who to tell, code words, etc.); hospital visits for sexual assault victims; and role-playing opportunities. Bilingual volunteers are critically needed. Contact Family Services about the next volunteer training program offered.

The numbers to call for help are (available 24/7):

DOMESTIC VIOLENCE:

  • Family Services domestic violence hotline — 336.723.8125
  • The National Domestic Violence hotline — 1.800.799.7233

SEXUAL ASSAULT:

  • Family Services sexual assault hotline — 336.722.4457
  • The National Sexual Assault hotline — 1.800.656.4673

For information about volunteering, family violence prevention, and other programs offered through Family Services, contact them at 336.722.8173, toll-free 800.316.5513, via e-mail at info@familyservicesforsyth.org, or  the website (familyservicesforsyth.org). Family Services’ main office is located at 1200 S. Broad Street.