VOICES domestic abuse survivor advocacy group needs volunteers

FREEPORT, Ill (WIFR) -- A Family Peace Center for domestic and sexual abuse survivors is coming to Rockford. However, nearby counties reach out for more volunteers.

VOICES volunteers needed

VOICES is the only domestic and sexual abuse survivor advocacy group in Stephenson County. The building is located in Freeport, but the services run 24/7.

"We help survivors to normalize their trauma, to understand that it's not their fault." -Beth Maskell, VOICES executive director

"Supporting survivors really includes all aspects in ways that we can help them enrich their lives and feel safe," says VOICES executive director Beth Maskell. "We provide 24 hour crisis intervention services, advocacy services within the court systems, within the criminal justice systems."

Volunteers respond to calls at FHN Memorial Hospital for domestic abuse. "[We] help survivors to normalize their trauma, to understand that it's not their fault," says Maskell.

VOICES also works closely with the Freeport Police Department. The department started its special victims unit in 2017 after receiving a grant. Officer Robyn Stovall is assigned to the unit, and agrees there is a great need for an advocacy group in the area.

"Just in the first six months of this year our officers have responded to over a thousand domestic violence calls," says Stovall. "A lot of times people were afraid to speak out."

She believes it's organizations like VOICES that help survivors speak up and ask for help.

"Our numbers have continued to grow. This past service year we provided services to nearly 650 individuals," says Maskell. "About 40 percent of those individuals are adolescents. We've seen a significant increase for the past few years from all aspects of our services."

However there are only three volunteers currently, and Maskell and Stovall agree that is not nearly enough.

"A lot of times people were afraid to speak out." -Robyn Stovall, Freeport Police Department Special Victims Unit

"It is vital for our system to have those volunteers," explains Maskell. That is why the organization is hosting training sessions to certify anyone interested in becoming a volunteer.

It's required to train for 40 hours to be certified in sexual assault crisis intervention to be a volunteer. The training sessions will start September 23.

"We're really looking for volunteers to be on call just three to four days in the calendar month," says Maskell. The training is twice a week on Monday and Wednesday evenings from 5:30 to 8:30.

To contact the agency to get involved call 815-232-7200