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Abuse center in search of more volunteers

Helen Neuborne, executive director of the National Organization for Women, believes it is time to acknowledge the truth about spouse abuse.

"This country cannot continue to keep its biggest secret," Neuborne has said.

As a volunteer at the Hernando County Rape Crisis-Spouse Abuse Center, Rita Kampf agrees and says it is time people get involved.

"I think we all know somebody that is abused," Kampf said. "No, I know we all know somebody that is abused."

As director and counselor at the Hernando center, Nancy Moores deals daily with the adversities that surround abuse.

The latest hurdle: recruiting and keeping volunteers.

Consider this: Statistics reveal that a woman is battered every 12 seconds in the United States, and one of every three women will be sexually attacked during her lifetime. That translates into about 200 sexual and spouse abuse calls per month at the Hernando County Rape Crisis-Spouse Abuse Center.

It also means mounds of paperwork, fund raising, counseling, and the need to have at least one person on call 24 hours a day. All that work is handled by 15 volunteers.

Moores hopes to remedy the situation by preparing a new group of volunteers this weekend. Training will be held from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday at the Brooksville Regional Hospital Enrichment Center at 711 Benton Ave. Anyone interested in volunteering can call 799-0657 or 796-4358.

The typical duration of volunteers at the center is 60 days. After that, Moores said, they usually burn out as a result of the intense subject matter or find they can't juggle the demanding schedule.

The training itself can be challenging.

Prospective volunteers must complete a day-and-a-half workshop on domestic violence and sexual assault that educates them psychologically and informs them about the legalities of law enforcement intervention and how they can best assist.

Next, a background check is done to determine whether the volunteer has committed any type of violent acts against people.

Only then are new volunteers paired with current ones to get on-the-job training. For a period of a few days to a few weeks, they are required to shadow the work of their counterparts and are not permitted to have contact with victims.

"If you don't know where to send a client who has a need, you're not going to be able to help them on the phone," Moores explained.

Moores said not just anyone can do the work.

"As much as we're desperate for help, we're desperate for the right kind of help," she said.

In addition to formal training, people wanting to volunteer must be open-minded, have no view of what a victim is or how she should act and cannot judge. A volunteer must instead accept people for what they are, Moores said. In essence, "we must help the person help themself."

Volunteers are discouraged from becoming personally involved with clients, and success cases are discussed generically. Thus, volunteers seldom know the outcome of their efforts. As a result, Moores said, volunteering can be a thankless job.

Satisfaction comes in knowing that you did the best you could when someone called, she said.

Kampf, who volunteered for a year, said turnover at the center is a problem. Like Moores, she blames it on busy schedules and apathy.

"A lot of people just don't want to be bothered by it," she said. "There are even a lot of times when I go to bed and pray no one will call (the beeper that she carries when on call)."

Volunteers who carry beepers are required to live within 20 minutes of a hospital, be no more than five minutes from a telephone and be able to respond in a split second. There is no time to make arrangements for a babysitter, Moores said.

Despite all the down sides, Kampf says she finds her volunteer work necessary and rewarding.

"I just want other people to know you aren't trapped (in an abusive relationship)," she said.

"There is a way out."

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