Domestic violence is a major issue in Colorado, and no one knows that better than the staffers at the San Miguel Resource Center in Telluride. Every year, the center is visited by over two hundred people seeking counseling, legal referrals, and safe housing. Recently, center began training volunteer advocates, hoping to lighten the caseload handled by full time staffers.

The San Miguel Resource Center currently has around seventy volunteer advocates, who are able to provide many services to the victims of domestic violence. One of the most valuable services volunteers can provide is the staffing of the center’s 24 hour hotline. The SMRC hotline receives over 1,800 calls each year, and volunteers play an essential role in assisting many of those people.

Volunteers receive a one month training course from the center, where they are trained by experienced law enforcement and social work professionals. Training also focuses on communication, where they are trained to listen to domestic violence victims, and to make them feel welcome and comfortable.

Of course, there are limits to what volunteers can do. If a volunteer feels they cannot cope with a situation, a staffer is always available to help them out. In addition, volunteers should not offer legal counsel, although they are able to refer victims to a lawyer who can.

The San Miguel Resource Center views its volunteers as essential players in fighting domestic violence in Colorado. In addition to the vital support they offer to victims, staff says that volunteer training has one additional benefit as well: every time a new volunteer is trained, the county becomes a little less tolerant of violence and abuse.

Source: Telluride Daily Planet, “Advocate training begins this week,” Heather Sackett, Sept. 4, 2012