Rape Recovery Center in Utah benefits survivors, volunteers
SALT LAKE CITY — A three-dimensional mask, broken in two, is attached to a red and black painting hanging near the entrance of the Rape Recovery Center.
"Linger," "disgust," "lethal rage" and "rag doll" are scrawled across the painting, along with the message, "suffer survival for superior virtue."
A small, white card next to the painting explains that Louie, the artist, was abused from ages 8 to 10.
"The mask is torn because I don't have to hide behind pain and tears anymore," the card reads.
It's one of the dozens of works of art created by sexual assault survivors adorning the walls of the center at 2035 S. 1300 East.
Just a few feet away, eight decorative rocks, each engraved with a single word, sit in a dish on the receptionist's desk. They surround one central rock labeled "Rape Recovery Center." The words on the rocks — hope, collaboration, respect, joy, integrity, excellence, wisdom and empowerment — sum up the nonprofit organization's mission.
The Rape Recovery Center offers services such as a 24-hour crisis line, individual and group counseling, hospital response advocates for victims of sexual assault, and education and outreach programs.
It relies on volunteers and donations to continue its work. Contributions may range from a few hours to collect and assemble items for hygiene kits for victims of sexual assault to on-call shifts with the crisis line or hospital response teams.
Marty Liccardo began volunteering with the center in 1998 as a crisis line volunteer. He said the training helped him become a better listener and more aware of relationship violence. Ultimately, it steered Liccardo toward a career in violence prevention.
"Once you go through the 40-hour training, that's kind of it," he said. "You're hooked."
Liccardo, a health educator at the University of Utah, now helps the Rape Recovery Center with community education.
McKenzie Edmonds, volunteer and advocacy coordinator for the center, explained that much of its operations involve 24-hour, on-call service provided by the hospital response team and crisis line. Because they receive thousands of calls per year, they need help to provide adequate support.
The center has roughly 65 active volunteers, ranging from those who work on the crisis line, the hospital response team, or both, to those who man tables at events.
Those who work with the clients need to undergo the 40-hour training. Such positions include call center volunteers, the hospital response team, and education and data-entry volunteers.
Crisis line advocates can connect remotely and are on call for anywhere from four hours to 10 hours for an overnight shift. They make sure the caller is safe, help them identify resources, let them know what to expect if they choose to go into the hospital for an exam, and work on validating the caller who may be experiencing extreme emotions and shock.
The hospital response team works with sexual assault victims who decide to be examined at a hospital. They ensure that survivors know their rights in relation to law enforcement and make an effort to help them feel empowered through the examination.
Advocates help with paperwork so the victim isn't charged for the exam, and give them educational materials for how to deal with emotional, legal and other issues surrounding sexual assault.
Additionally, volunteers are charged to follow a strict code of confidentiality.
"This has to be a safe space," Edmonds said.
At any given time, the volunteer staff can call a staff member if they feel overwhelmed by a case, or if they need someone to debrief. Edmonds said the recovery center makes every effort to ensure volunteers feel supported.
"It's a hard field and we recognize that," she said, "and we don't want people to get burned out."
The center also provides supplemental training each month for volunteers.
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