53-year-old Judy Alvelo is a safe resource for domestic violence survivors who are often scared and unsure about who to turn to for help. As an advocate, the Westville, New Jersey resident says helping victims navigate the journey to a safer, healthier life is a path she is intimately familiar with as a former domestic violence victim.
As a volunteer domestic violence response team advocate with Services Empowering Rights of Victims (SERV), Judy responds to victims of domestic violence at local police departments or hospitals. Responsible for crisis intervention, safety planning and serving as a bridge builder for longer term services, Judy and other SERV volunteers provide support to hundreds of survivors of sexual assault, domestic violence and human trafficking each year.
Protecting the rights of survivors in their time of need, Judy is making a difference in her community, and is today’s Daily Point of Light award honoree. Points of Light spoke to Judy to learn more about her work with SERV.
What inspires you to volunteer?
Unfortunately, in today’s world, domestic violence and sexual assault are not spoken about because there’s a stigma attached to these issues. By volunteering and advocating for survivors, I am encouraging more people to talk about these issues so that they’re not as taboo. The more awareness people have about our program and what we do, the more people we can help.
How does it make you feel knowing that your service may save someone’s life?
It’s extremely fulfilling because it makes me feel like I’m making a difference at a time in their lives when it’s really hard to get someone to help you. These survivors know I’m here to help them for no other reason but what comes from my heart.
What’s been the most rewarding part of your work?
There are a couple of stories that have stuck with me. Sometimes, to raise awareness of SERV we’ll work at tables at community events, and I occasionally see a survivor I helped previously. The person will recognize me, but say they don’t remember how. I don’t reveal how we know each other. Sometimes when I’m volunteering, these individuals are going through such a traumatic time that they might not even remember my face or who I am. It’s fulfilling to me that I am simply a friendly face, even if they can’t place where they know me from. I’ll just ask them how they’re doing, and it’s great to hear them say that they’re doing well and that the kids are okay.
How can people learn more about SERV or help?
Please check our website for more information about SERV and how you can help.
What have you learned through your experiences as a volunteer?
It’s made me more realistic to the world and how victims are sometimes treated. We are there to help survivors and there are many like us who want to help, but then there is the other spectrum that wouldn’t even offer these individuals a cup of water. I once helped a prostitute who had been assaulted, and the responding officer was giving me lip about the situation and asking why I was standing up for the individual. I’m there to remind people that she’s a person and she has rights.
Why do you think it’s important for others to give back?
The world needs more kindness and more of a personal touch. Today, everyone is so scared of getting involved and being there for one another. Service just makes a better world.
What do you want people to learn from your story?
If you are blessed and you have time to dedicate to a program or system that is giving back to the world, you are going to find a fulfillment that you’ve never found before. Volunteering gives you fulfillment that is unexplainable. It brings inner peace to know that you are doing something for someone else for nothing in return.
Do you want to make a difference in your community like Judy Alvelo? Visit All For Good for local volunteer opportunities.
Post written by Marlena Militana.