“I am not what has happened to me, I am what I choose to become” Carl Jung.
Domestic violence, sexual assault, stalking, and human trafficking. They aren’t comfortable conversation topics and yet somewhere, someone—male or female— in the world is living through one situation or another. According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (NCADV), more than 20,000 phone calls were made to domestic violence hotlines nationwide on a normal day in 2017. 20,000 people reaching out for someone to tell them it is going to be okay in just one day. In 2014, NCADV reported that in Wyoming alone, 2,592 domestic violence incidents were reported to police. Roughly, there are twenty set organizations within the different counties that make up Wyoming that are prepared to help a victim of the aforementioned; one of them is Helpmate located in Lusk and they are currently seeking Advocates to assist them.
An Advocate is defined by the Merriam-Webster dictionary first as ‘one who pleads the cause of another’; it is this definition that underscores what an Advocate does for an organization such as Helpmate. “There are many dynamics to being a victim, such as why they do what they do or why they stay. Society is big on victim blaming without understanding the true reasons of why a victim might stay in a bad relationship or why someone who was a victim of sexual assault might not want to report... It is nice to have a variety of Advocates as to maybe someone just clicks or relates to another Advocate” explains Helpmate Executive Director, Sabrina Kruse on her plight to find more volunteers, “We are looking for someone who is confidential, compassionate, a positive outlook, willingness to learn, good listening skills, able to work with law enforcement and a desire to help others”.
Helpmate is run by a 7-person board, Kruse, and her assistant Josette Fitzwater, Victim Witness Coordinator. As of right now, they only have one Advocate that is trained and can help in a victim situation, “An advocate is so helpful to our program. They assist victims in crisis situations when the office is closed. They take call for the organization one week out of the month. It is usually from 5pm to 7am Monday through Thursday and from 5pm Friday night to 7am Monday morning. They basically make sure that the victim is in a safe place until we can get a safety plan in order” explains Kruse. Kruse herself has deep ties with Helpmate that extend past her current title, “I did start as an Advocate back in 2010 I believe. It [Advocating] means I was able to give back to the program that had assisted me while I was a victim of domestic violence”.
Advocating within Helpmate is a volunteer position that gives a person a chance to make a difference for one of the 20,000 callers. That being said, Advocates are required to complete an application and interview with Kruse followed by a background check and training, “At this point in time we are having any new Advocate complete an online training” states Kruse, “This is offered through the Division of Victims Services, it is 32 hours and offered at your own pace”. Once a new Advocate has gone through the process and completed their training, they are then paired with a senior Advocate during the seniors call time so the new Advocate has someone with experience who can help them begin assisting victims.
“Helpmate is a very important organization for so many reasons” expresses Kruse, “The main reason is we offer victims avenues to become a survivor. I personally know from experience that without Helpmate, I may not have been able to become a survivor and the person I am today. We never tell a victim what to do; we simply give them options, referrals, and a safe place for them to make the much-needed choices to become a survivor. This is only one reason, I could go on and on, but then there would be no room in your paper for anything else”. Those wishing to Advocate for Helpmate may contact the office located in the Ranger Building. The link for the training required is as follows and is open year round, https://www.ovcttac.gov/views/TrainingMaterials/dspOnline_VATOnline.cfm. “Our main focus being on domestic violence, sexual assault, stalking and human trafficking; we strive to end those things by assisting the victims in any way we can. However, we do assist all victims of crime”.