FAQ

What is the volunteer commitment?

We ask that all advocates volunteering with the medical advocacy program commit to picking up 24 on-call shifts (at a minimum of 2 shifts per month). Each shift runs from 7am-7pm, 7pm-7am. Volunteer advocates will choose when they want to be on the schedule.

Is it possible to volunteer without signing a volunteer contract?

Yes, but you should note that prioritize seats in the training for folks that are willing to sign the volunteer contract with us.

Is it necessary to complete a background check in order to volunteer with RVA?

Yes. You will be asked to complete a background check with the Department of Children and Family Services. The results may implicate one’s ability to volunteer with RVA.

Do I need a car to be able to volunteer with the medical advocacy program?

No. As long as you are able to arrive to any of our 14 hospitals within 45 minutes you are welcome to utilize whatever method of transportation is best for you (car, taxi, bike, train, bus, walk, etc.) We are able to offer advocates cab vouchers to use to get to and from a hospital. Additionally, we are able to reimburse round trip for the following costs:

  • Up to $16 for parking fees and mileage (at 50 cents/mile) for those who drive to hospitals
  • CTA train/bus fares
  • Cab fares (excluding tip and any additional fees)

Are there volunteer opportunities available for male-identified individuals?

Yes. Male-identified individuals are welcome to participate in our medical advocacy program. When we have both a male-identified and a female-identified advocate on the schedule, we will ask the survivor if they have a gender preference for the advocate and dispatch to the hospital accordingly.

I have completed an application. Now what?

Hang tight. We will review all applications the week before the orientation session is scheduled. Approved applicants will receive an email after the final application due date inviting them to an orientation session where we will share more information about the program and answer questions. At that time individual interviews will be conducted to determine if the applicant is a good fit for our program.

When will I hear if I have been accepted into the training?

After attending an orientation session, the volunteer manager will contact every applicant a week before the training starts to let them know if they have been accepted into the training.

Upon conclusion of the training, will I be a certified rape crisis counselor?

At the conclusion of the training you will receive a certificate that states that you have “completed 60–hours of sexual assault crisis intervention training in accordance with Illinois law and the Illinois Coalition Against Sexual Assault service standards. While providing services on behalf of RVA you have earned the title of Volunteer Medical Advocate and Rape Crisis Counselor.” It is important to note that volunteers will not receive their training certificates until they have completed two months of on-call shifts.

What is the cost of the training?

For those interested in volunteering with RVA, a materials fee of $75 will be collected the first week of training. For those taking the training for professional training purposes only the cost is increased to $150-$300 depending on the agency.

What if I cannot afford the training?

A sliding scale of $75-$40 is available for volunteers who may need the financial assistance.

When will payment be collected?

For those accepted into the training, payment will be collected on the first week of training. We ask that you make payment using a debit/credit card, by going to our webpage https://www.givedirect.org/donate/index.php?cid=12312 and making a donation online. Please make a note on the donation that the purpose of the transaction is for training costs.

Where will the training take place?

180 N. Michigan Ave.
Suite 600
Chicago, IL 60601

What time should I arrive each evening?

You should arrive by 5:15pm each day. We will start promptly at 5:30. Tardiness will be counted as an absence.

What if I cannot make all the training dates?

We can accommodate 1 missed session ONLY. You will have to make-up those sessions by scheduling an independent make-up session with the trainer for that session. We cannot guarantee that the trainer will be able to accommodate your schedule or that the make-up session will be offered outside of the regular business day. Absolutely NO exceptions to this policy. If attendance will be a problem, we recommend you consider attending another training session. RVA offers this training four times each calendar year.

Can I bring food to the training?

Yes. Please feel free to bring your dinner. We will hold a 10-15 minute break each session. We will provide light snacks and drinks too. If you specific dietary restrictions, please be mindful that we will not be able to accommodate your needs.

What should I wear to the training?

Because the training sessions are long, please feel free to dress comfortably. Business attire is not necessary. Depending on the season, it can be cold or hot in the training room. Layers tend to work best.

Is there parking available at RVA’s office for the duration of the training?

There are plenty of (expensive) parking options available in the downtown area. Unfortunately, we cannot reimburse for parking during the training. Other trainees have utilized an app called Spot Hero to find cheaper parking options nearby.

As a volunteer medical advocate, can I choose which calls I will respond to?

No. When signing up for a shift, our volunteer advocates can tell us their preference as it relates to responding to particular side of the city or age of survivor and we will try to accommodate that if possible. However, our resources are limited and we will use whomever we have on-call to make sure all calls are responded to. This means that all advocates must be willing and prepared to respond to any call regardless of location, age or gender of the survivor.

As a volunteer advocate, what hospitals will I be expect to respond to?

You are expected to be able to respond to all of the hospitals that we currently partner with. For a complete hospital list, please visit our website at www.rapevictimadvocates.org/what-you-need-to-know/faq.

How long is each on-call shift?

Currently, our shifts run from 7am-7pm and 7pm-7am. Advocates may choose which shift and day they sign-up for. Advocates will not be assigned to shifts. You may take week day/night shifts or weekend day/night shifts. Advocates are expected to be available for dispatch throughout the entire duration of their shift. Occasionally, this may mean that an advocate will be on a hospital call beyond the 12 hours of their shift, in cases where the call may have come in later in the shift. Advocates are expected to plan accordingly for this.

How many calls will I respond to during a shift?

It is hard to predict how many hospital calls you might be asked to respond to during an on-call shift. Some advocates have taken shifts were they weren’t dispatched at all, while others have taken one, two or even three calls during the shift. We don’t have any way of predicting how many calls will come in.

Will I be responding to calls alone?

Yes. We do not use a shadowing system. Our advocates undergo extensive training to prepare them to respond to survivors in the ER. Once an advocate has complete our training which includes several hours of roleplays with experts, they will be able to sign up for shifts and respond to calls independently. However, while on a call, each advocate will have ongoing access to a shift supervisor who is available to answer questions, help them navigate tricky situations and also offer emotional support for the advocate on-call.

What support systems are available for volunteers?

Trauma work can be impactful and we recognize that. The Advocacy Volunteer Manager is always available to volunteers to debrief calls and process emotions. She can be reached in person by appointment or via email/telephone during office hours. Additionally, RVA holds a monthly Volunteer Support Group where volunteers are encouraged to join us in creating safe and supportive space for one another. The purpose of this space is to discuss calls, questions, triggers, struggles, burn-out and victories as related to doing this work. Volunteers are welcome to come receive/offer support to one another. Moreover, throughout training we will partner each trainee with a mentor and mentor group who may be an additional point of contact and support. Mentors are experienced advocates who have hospital experience. Lastly, we recognize that community is important when doing this work. RVA will hold quarterly social opportunities for advocates to meet advocates from other classes and create a larger support network. We have extended this community into virtual space by creating a private volunteer Facebook page where we celebrate one another and have conversations around relevant current events.

Can I continue to volunteer with RVA when I have completed my contract?

Absolutely! Additionally, graduated options may be available to folks who have excelled in the ER.

What other volunteer opportunities are available with RVA?

We welcome folks to volunteer with our administrative or development department in fundraising efforts. These opportunities do not require that the volunteer be 40-56hr trained. If you are interested in pursuing only these options, please email info@rapevictimadvocates.org . We currently do not utilize volunteers in our Counseling department.

Are there internship opportunities available with RVA?

Internships opportunities are available for students receiving academic credit with availability from July-June cycles with Advocacy, Education and Training, Counseling and Development. Please note that counseling internships are only available for 2nd year Master level students in a related field. Internship vacancies can be found at www.rapevictimadvocates.org/get-involved/careers-and-internships.

What if I already have the 40-Hour certification from another state?

Because each state has their own set of sexual assault laws and standards for certification, we cannot accept out of state certificates. Individuals who were trained in another state will need to complete minimally 40 hours of training with RVA in order to be eligible to volunteer with us.

What if I already have the 40-Hour certification from another Illinois-based crisis center?

Those who have been trained with another crisis center in Illinois will be asked to complete an assessment with RVA and 20+ hours of refresher training. Refresher training take place concurrently with our new volunteer training.