WESTFIELD, NJ – A free training course for persons interested in volunteering with the Union County Rape Crisis Center will begin Tuesday, August 15. Specialized training is available to become part of a volunteer community of trained advocates who provide crisis and support services to victims of sexual violence and their significant others.

The Rape Crisis Center has offered guidance and support to victims of sexual violence since 1984, as a service of the Union County Freeholders through the Department of Human Services.

“Volunteer Confidential Sexual Violence Advocates are crucial to the work of the Rape Crisis Center,” said Union County Freeholder Chairman Bruce H. Bergen. "Sexual violence impacts not only the victim, but also those surrounding them. Our volunteer advocates help restore a sense of community to county residents facing a life crisis."

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The free training program for volunteers begins Tuesday, Aug. 15 and concludes Thursday, Sept. 28. Classes will be held Tuesdays and Thursdays from 6:00 p.m. to 9:30 p.m.at the Colleen Fraser County Services Building, 300 North Ave. East, Westfield. The training course qualifies volunteers to be Confidential Sexual Violence Advocates, who answer phone calls to Union County’s Rape Crisis Hotline and offer in-person support.

No previous experience in counseling, law or medicine is required to become an Advocate. Volunteers must be Union County residents at least 18 years of age. They must hold a valid driver’s license and have their own vehicle. The training course includes sessions on crisis counseling, and medical and legal accompaniment in a supportive, empathetic environment.Prospective volunteers must also visit the Westfield office for an informal interview prior to undertaking the training course.

To learn more about volunteering and get information about the next training course, call the Rape Crisis Center at 908-233-7273 or email rcc@ucnj.org. For more details about the Rape Crisis Center, including personal stories by volunteers, visit the Rape Crisis Center blog at unioncountyrapecrisiscenter.blogspot.com.