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Rape crisis center to train emergency advocates

Dinah Gunn says the name Rape Crisis and Sexual Assault Services can leave a false impression.

"Because of our name, I think most people don't associate that with children," she said. "Actually, most of our clients are children."

Gunn, who is the volunteer advocate coordinator for the organization, is recruiting volunteers to lend support to sexual assault victims in and around McDuffie County. A training session for volunteers will be held from 6 to 9 p.m. Friday, Oct. 7, and 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 8, in the sheriff's department training room.

There is no charge for the training, and no pay for the service.

"They'll do advocacy and crisis intervention in whichever county is closest to them," Gunn said. "Advocates will go into the ER when a victim comes into the emergency room, and they would provide them with information and emotional support, resources for them."

Gunn's office is located in Augusta. Its service area includes McDuffie, Jefferson, Columbia, Richmond and Burke counties. "And anybody who can get to the hospital within 30 minutes is welcome to volunteer with us," she said. That would include residents of Warren County, which depends on the Thomson hospital for such emergency treatment.

Anyone interested in service, or who has questions about the service, may call Gunn at (706) 774-2746.

The association also maintains a hot line, (706) 724-5200.

Gunn said the association has several advocates in the McDuffie area. "We have about seven active, and we just always need to maintain and replenish," she said.

Volunteers keep the group's name before the public, including by staffing booths and distributing fliers at community fairs.

"We want people to come forward and know there will be somebody there to help them," she said. "That's our primary goal."

She said she hopes the evening and weekend training will be more convenient for working families.

She said the service must keep someone available day and night. "They can take day or night shifts, whichever is best for them," she said.

The service added McDuffie County in June of 2010, and soon had several cases. "It hasn't been as busy lately," she said.

The advocate does not have to hold a degree, she said. "It needs to be someone who is compassionate, who can talk with other people, who wants to help people," she said.

"We will provide them with the training they need to become an advocate," she said. That training includes basic counseling training for that initial intervention session. "We give them resources, and we follow up with the victims we see."

"We just give the victim options so they can have some control over what's happening in their situation," Gunn said. "We just let them express their feelings."

She said Rape Crisis and Sexual Assault Services is attempting to organize a volunteer recognition in November or December.

The sheriff's office is in the law enforcement center, which is on Public Safety Drive west of the Thomson Bypass, south of Augusta Highway.

Web posted on Thursday, September 29, 2011

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