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Berrien County group seeks volunteers to help sexual assault survivors

SAINT JOSEPH, Mich.-Every two minutes, someone in the United States is sexually assaulted and fewer than half of survivors report their attacks. A local group at Lakeland Health is working to provide comfort and resources to those involved in traumatic situations and now they need your help.

A volunteer group, Advocate Volunteer for Abuse Survivors (AVAS) assist specially-trained Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner (SANE) nurses who provide 24/7 care to sexual assault survivors at all three Lakeland Health locations in Niles, Watervliet and Saint Joseph.

Since its establishment in November 2016, the number of advocates has grown to 16. The upcoming program is hoping to recruit more volunteers.

“These advocates go through intensive training and they learn how to communicate with the survivors,” said Teresa Yoakum, a SANE Coordinator at Lakeland Health.

The group was assembled by a collaboration between community counselors, law enforcement officials, doctors, nurses and social workers.

The current application process ends on August 21st. Volunteers must complete at least 24 hours a month. Four-day intensive training will be on September 9th, 10th, 16th and 17th from 8:30 A.M. to 5 P.M.

“It teaches you how to interact with a victim of sexual assault and gives you key phrases that you can start that conversation with them,” Yoakum said. “We educate what resources we have out in the community and what we have here at Lakeland Health as far as for our survivors,” Yoakum said.

You can find the application packet HERE. 

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