The value of volunteering
1 June 2020
Lyn lives in Cardiff and has volunteered with Victim Support for over 15 years. She enquired about volunteering at her local magistrates’ court after reading a newspaper article about Victim Support. This is her story.
The opportunity to help people cope with attending court - particularly victims of domestic abuse - brought back my own early married life. 24 years old, three children under three, unable to work and afraid of the next aggressive act.
In the 1960s, violence against women was referred to as ‘a domestic’ and there was no support to deal with the situation. I remember feeling so helpless after another drunken attack, and the fear of continuing violence. If a volunteer from Victim Support had been available then I would not have felt so alone. After five years of an abusive relationship I obtained an injunction from my first husband. But I experienced the difficulties of the legal system: until I was divorced I could not claim benefits or have a rental tenancy in my name.
I hoped my experiences would give an empathic understanding as I had ‘been there’ and would be able to offer support to others.
Thank goodness there are people like you”
I started in Cardiff magistrates’ court and was guided by long-standing volunteers. Training courses were available, which I attended and thoroughly enjoyed. I continued in the magistrates’ court for several years, sometimes attending three to five days a week when the victim needed the extra support of a trusted volunteer. I soon realised what an important service this was.
One of the paramount reasons for continuing as a volunteer was the appreciation of the victims. Often they would say, “You have helped me to stand in court and give my evidence” and “Thank goodness there are people like you to give their time and care for us.”
I decided to become part of the ‘visiting team’ – supporting victims in their own home or in a safe place. The overwhelming relief displayed many times by victims encouraged me to know that a volunteer’s role is so valuable.
Dedicated and sensitive support
One of the most impacting experiences has been to train as part of the homicide team. Supporting the victims of a murder is highly emotionally charged. The privileged position, to be included as part of their support, is something I treat with the utmost respect. I have been part of this team for several years and seen how the families and friends value this dedicated and sensitive support.
I supported a young mother whose 6-week-old baby had been murdered, the parents and sisters of a 17-year-old son and brother brutally murdered, family members of a four-year-old girl hideously murdered. Each time offered a moment for those people to express their deepest black thoughts and share moments of anger, despair and unrelenting grief.
For some there is a reluctance to share their feelings or talk with family/friends, for fear of causing more distress for loved ones already suffering. All of these reasons personifies the purpose and need for volunteers.
Thinking of volunteering?
Being a volunteer has enhanced and enriched my life. I would encourage others to consider becoming a volunteer, but it’s important to remember volunteering is about the ‘other person’ - not addressing your needs. Make inquiries, find out what is involved and it may be that you will become a Victim Support volunteer and join a trusted organisation - giving the community your valued time and care.
Find out more about what to expect when you volunteer for us.