By Brittany Harrison
In February of 2018, the Kentucky National Guard Advocacy Program held a sixteen hour training to empower the advocates for sexual assault victims. Jamie Sivrais, the founder of A Voice for the Innocent (AVFTI), gave a seminar on how to effectively respond with empathy to victims of sexual assault. He covered the “Listen, Believe, Validate” mantra that AVFTI practices. Jamie taught this framework to enable an empathetic response:
- Be present in the conversation.
- Remember it is not your time to talk.
- Consider what you are going to say before saying it out loud.
- Remember that it is not our job to question an individual reporting an assault.
- It is important to believe the individual and help them find the proper resources.
- Lastly, it is important to make sure that the individual knows that their feelings are valid and understood.
In addition, Jamie talked about the psychology, statistics and indicators of trauma.
AVFTI was honored to be part of such an important event. When asked what his biggest take away was Jamie stated he “was impressed that an event training seminar like this existed. Events and training such as these are great strides forward in the movement against sexual assault.”
The event covered seven different seminars to empower advocates in their work with sexual assault victims. This seminar offered a total of fourteen hours of victim advocacy training and two hours of SAPR Ethics training. Topics covered include:
- the community impact of abuse
- documentation after an assault has been reported
- state laws
- safe kits
- personality types
In addition to Jamie Sivrais, the event also included guest speakers such as Gretchen Hunt and Whitney Collins. Gretchen Hunt led a seminar explaining state laws, the Kentucky Survivor Council, and safe kits. While, Whitney Collins led a seminar that covered the topics of the crime lab and the processing of a safe kit. In addition, “Audrey and Daisy”, the documentary featured at the event, follows the stories of two individuals effected by sexual assault and how their assault impacted them and their communities. The film also gives insight on how schools handle reported assaults.
While handling heavy topics, it is important to practice self-care. Therefore, this event dedicated an hour seminar discussing different methods of self-care. Finally, a four hour personality training was provided which helped attendees learn about themselves. This training will help them effectively respond and better advocate based on their personalities and the personalities of those with whom they interact.
In closing, I was fortunate enough to speak with Charles Lay, Victim Advocate Coordinator for the KY National Guard. Mr. Lay stated that, “one of the best parts of the event seminar was the aspect of community togetherness.” Mr. Lay was very enthusiastic when talking about how organizations throughout Kentucky are willing to help each other further their individual missions. “Without community partnership there wouldn’t be any recognition for organizations.”