Sexual Assault Advocates Needed

It's been many years ago. Patti Burton was sexually assaulted.  "They say forgive, but don't forget. You don't forget, but we can go with our lives and hopefully help others," said Burton outside the East Texas Women's Shelter. Burton is fulfilling her desire by volunteering with the agency as a sexual assault advocate. "It's such a horrible thing. I don't think anyone should have to go through it alone." Burton speaks from experience. "The saying, 'Been there, done that,' I feel like just a hand to hold, a shoulder to cry on, maybe a prayer is what the victim needs."

Compassion, free of judgments is necessary to be a sexual assault advocate, but so is knowledge. Helen Stevenson provides the facts in extensive training that only enhances a volunteer's service.   The sexual assault program coordinator said, "We have a desperate need for volunteers. Again they have to be able to make a real commitment. It is a huge commitment because of the training, the 40 hour initial training and then they have to accompany another advocate for two or three hospital visits before they can go on their own."

For there is where specially trained nurses collect evidence that could lead to prosecution. About ten cases a month are seen in Lufkin. Children, women and men are the victims. Stevenson said, "What we ask our volunteers is to be prepared to commit two to three 12 hour shifts a month."

Yes, it's a responsibility, but the service will never be forgotten. Sexual advocate training began Monday. Anyone interested in the volunteer service is welcome to join the group. Sessions continue through Friday at the East Texas Women's Shelter business office on Durst Street in Nacogdoches. Classes begin at six o'clock.