Each time a case of rape, sexual assault or domestic violence is reported, a number of people spring into action, including police, doctors, friends or family members. But the Cumbee Center to Assist Abused Persons is also there, and the group is seeking individuals to take part in its week-long volunteer training that begins on March 6.
The training lasts through March 13 and goes from 6 to 9 p.m., on weeknights and 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., on March 9. There will be no class on March 10.
During the 25-hour training, which is free for participants, the Cumbee Center staff and experts on domestic violence and sexual assault from around the community will prepare potential volunteers to assist victims of sexual assault and domestic violence and their families, according to Paul Volz, volunteer and events coordinator for the Cumbee Center.
“All sorts of different agencies come in and explain how we work together. Each night is a different speaker,” Volz said.
According to Volz, the center needs volunteers willing to work where needed at the office or the shelter, but they “desperately” need volunteers to respond to after hours calls during which they may be needed to talk with victims in the hospital emergency room.
“Just this weekend we had three rape calls at Aiken Regional, and one was a minor,” Volz said.
“Without that volunteer, we wouldn’t be able to do it. Her last call was at 5:30 this morning (Monday), and she’s at work today.”
While the evening classes are reserved for the speakers, the Saturday class will cover a variety of topics, including sexual assault, teen dating violence, HIV and the rape kit.
It will also include a tour of the center’s shelter and the Aiken emergency room.
The center has about 72 active volunteers, but only about 20 “carry a bag,” Volz said.
These bags are two suitcases that a volunteer responding to an emergency room carries. One contains clothing in sizes from extra small to 3XL, and the other contains pamphlets and information about services provided at the Cumbee Center.
Volz said volunteers can work whenever they want or whenever their schedule allows them to.
Sarah Diaz-Martinez has been a volunteer with the Cumbee Center since she moved to Aiken in 2008.
“I was looking for something like the Cumbee Center, some way to help get the word out about abuse and help people who have been victims,” she said.
“It’s definitely something worthwhile to be a part of because you’re not only helping the community, you’re helping the people that have been abused; you’re helping bring awareness about the Cumbee Center and the services it offers.”
Diaz-Martinez said that in addition to being a bag carrier, she also helps out with other Cumbee Center events including the Whiskey Road 10K race it hosts and “Walk a Mile in Her Shoes,” during which men strut through downtown Aiken in high-heeled shoes as a way to take a public stand against sexual assault.
“To me, it’s all about the enrichment I feel knowing that not only through the advocacy process do I get to help people, I get to help them realize that they don’t have to put up with this, they don’t have to live in fear,” she said.
“There’s a lot of need out there that you can fill. It’s worth going through the volunteer training,” she said.
“Even if you don’t end up as an advocate, there’s ways to help out.”
For more information on the classes, call Volz at 649-0480 or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.