College Student Advocates for Victims of Sexual Violence
As a psychology major at Lander University, Ari West spent the last three years of her college career serving victims of sexual violence and child abuse as a volunteer advocate for Beyond Abuse. The organization teaches people how to identify and combat abuse and provides critical services like 24/7 crisis response, accompanies victims to trials and law enforcement visits, and provides short- and long-term counseling services. After graduating this spring, Ari plans to use her volunteer experience to inform her future career in clinical mental health counseling.
Ari is today’s Daily Point of Light honoree, and Points of Light spoke to her about her drive to make a difference in the lives of some of the most vulnerable members of her community.
Describe your volunteer role at Beyond Abuse.
As a volunteer advocate for Beyond Abuse, I went through a two-week training period where I learned how to provide support and services to victims of sexual assault. It is my job to raise awareness, promote advocacy and action for victims of sexual violence, and each year I go through continuing education where I take classes on special topics. It was my responsibility to answer the crisis phone during lunch time in order to give the employees a break, and I also put together fundraisers for Beyond Abuse and worked with them on their own fundraisers.
What drew you to volunteer at this organization?
What drew me to Beyond Abuse was that it reaches out to underserved populations. In my opinion, underserved populations need and deserve the most help. It was truly inspiring to work with an agency that is so devoted to helping people.
Do you feel that volunteering helped you grow and mature in both personal and professional ways?
Volunteering at Beyond Abuse definitely helped me grow and mature professionally, mainly due to the incredible mentors I had. They always made sure I understood what I was taught about sexual violence, and they were extremely supportive of my goals and ambitions. However, the most important thing I learned was how pervasive sexual violence was in my community, and I would not have felt right if I wasn’t part of the solution helping to end this type of violence and stand up for its victims.
Why do you feel that it’s critical for communities to have organizations like Beyond Abuse that speak of for victims of sexual violence and child abuse?
Sexual violence is so prevalent in my community, and I feel like it is vitally important for agencies like Beyond Abuse to exist so Greenwood can strive for justice for victims of sexual assault. Beyond Abuse also has a [special] way of bringing the whole community together, which is so amazing.
Why do you think it is important for others to volunteer?
It’s important for people to volunteer because no matter what it is that you are doing, you can make an incredible difference.
In five words or less, describe how giving back to others makes you feel.
Amazing and rewarded. Making a difference in the world, and within your own community, is the best feeling you will ever have – and that is a promise.
Do you want to make a difference in your community like Ari? Visit All For Good to discover local volunteer opportunities.
*This interview has been edited for length and clarity.