An advocate is someone who walks with a person who has suffered abuse, to support them and ensure that they are heard. The act of telling of one’s story is a sacred event and so advocates need to remember that they walk on holy ground and must treat the story with tremendous respect, care and confidentiality.
An advocate’s role may include
- Listening in a believing and non-judgmental manner
- Assisting the survivor in locating other supports
- Speaking on the survivor’s behalf when they cannot speak themselves
- Locating policy for the abuse
- Helping the survivor write the experience down
- Clarifying goals
- Brainstorming options together
- Problem solving strategies
- Modelling appropriate boundaries
- Locating information
An advocate needs
- Good listening, problem-solving and communications skills
- A knowledge and understanding of abuse issues
- Needs to be in touch with own feelings and able to process them
- Aware of own boundaries
- Recommended that they be of the same gender as survivor
- Knows limitations of the role of an advocate
Our small actions do make a difference
As our society becomes more aware of the hidden abuse in families and churches, it is easy to become overwhelmed by the amount of pain surrounding us. Those who provide support to the hurting may wonder when the pain will ever go away. Those who advocate for changes in a society or system which allows for abuse may get discouraged, feeling the changes are too slow and too few. However, our small actions do make a difference to hurting individuals.
From Advocacy Training Manual, Advocating for Survivors of Sexual Abuse by a Church Leader or Caregiver by Heather Block, MCC, 2000.