A Day in the Life of an on-call Hotline Advocate

Written by: Andi Eberhardt, Volunteer Hotline Advocate
As a volunteer it is difficult to definitively say that my day changes when the clock turns 5pm. On the one hand, I am more aware of the potential for calls, but on the other hand, I am able to go about my day as if nothing has changed. Being able to advocate from the comfort of my own home has provided me with enormous amounts of flexibility, and has helped to reduce my anxieties associated with speaking to victims. Rather than working from a call center, I can sleep, eat, and fulfill other daily responsibilities that I normally would had I not been on call. However, the moment that I do receive a call immediately puts me into perspective.
Communication is key in the world of crime victim advocacy. Without the constant updates and reminders from supervisors, it would be difficult to properly hand off resources and advice to those on the line. Thankfully, as an advocate, I am constantly reminded and informed about the sensitivity of the issues that we are dealing with. Perhaps there was a traumatic event that occurred in a different state — there is still a chance that a client might choose to reach out to VSS, and we should be prepared to help that client. Even if no one associated with that traumatic event chooses to reach out to VSS, being aware of the hypersensitivity of certain situations makes us as advocates prepared for anything. Yet, despite this preparation, it is still difficult to know
My heartrate will occasionally increase as soon as I hear my phone ring while on call. Who knows what the conversation could entail? Sometimes I will answer the phone and hear a person in deep crisis, and other times I will be responding to an individual who has a simple question regarding resources. Either way, I am prepared to answer in a way that exhibits my compassion for the situation. Resource calls are very clear and explicit, as I have learned in my experience with callers. Victims will usually have an immediate question to ask, and I will help them search for their answer to the best of my ability. I was overwhelmed by how few people were searching for resources. What most callers wanted was someone to talk to, someone that would listen as they recounted their victimization. I quickly learned that listening is the best thing that I could do. I was often tempted to list off resources for those experiencing crisis, but was frequently interrupted as victims continued recalling their trauma. Many individuals were not asking for resources and referrals, but they were asking for validation and comfort.
I remember the first call that I ever received. It was from an older woman; whose situation I do not clearly recall. I felt helpless as I tried to refer her to certain resources, and she would continue to mourn the trauma she had faced. I truly did not know how to help. However, at the end of the call, the woman surprised me. She found my compassion and empathy to be remarkable, even when I had felt that I did nothing at all to better her situation. That is the common folly associated with advocacy. Occasionally there are lapses in conversation, and occasionally it feels as if a referral might be beneficial, but the best thing an advocate can do is listen. The best thing anyone can do for someone experiencing pain is to listen with intention.