Restored and Renewed
These last two weeks I have had the pleasure of working at the St. Lawrence Valley Renewal House. From the outside, 3 Chapel Street is a quaint little blue house. Step inside and you will see a multi-faceted and tight knit team working tirelessly to provide support and advocacy to victims of domestic violence and sexual assault in St. Lawrence County. Renewal House happens to be the only agency dedicating its time and resources to this necessary work in the largest county in the state. As a result, we are a busy yet committed agency jumping at every opportunity to empower victims. From 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday, we have staff on hand in the office to respond immediately and effectively to the needs of the community. 5 p.m. to 8 a.m. and weekends, we always provide a 24-hour crisis hotline available for off hour emergencies 365 days a year. The diligent Renewal House staff are always ready and equipped to take on clients. We are trained to empower victims and increase community awareness as our mission statement indicates, and we carry out every case to best support the specific needs of everyone that calls or walks through the door.
Statistics show that 1 in 5 women and 1 in 71 men will be victims of sexual assault, with an assault taking place on average every 92 seconds. 1 in 4 women and 1 in 9 men will be victims of domestic violence in varying forms. In 2018, St. Lawrence Valley Renewal House served 1,026 individuals across the county, breaking down to 705 clients for domestic violence and 321 for sexual assault. We serve all different kinds of people from all around the county, from Massena to Gouverner to Canton, and more. Sexual assault and domestic violence do not discriminate. That is why we foster a warm and welcoming environment inclusive to everybody. All services are private and confidential, free of charge, and autonomously voluntary. We are dedicated to serving St. Lawrence County residents to see them through an incredibly hard time in their life.
Renewal House provides a great range of services to our clients. Thus far, I have gone through 30 hours of extensive training to become a Certified Rape Crisis Counselor and additional training to fulfill the positions in the office. After training, I started to shadow all of the staff members to get a feel for what everybody does. I watched case managers, counselors, legal aid, and community educators do their jobs day in and day out. Thus far, I’ve been able to sit in on emotional support sessions with clients, go to court accompaniments for custody battles and orders of protection, watch the drafting of an order of protection, answer phones, and start my summer project. It is a slow-going process to assimilate into the constant efforts of the Renewal House, but I am getting a good feel for the fast pace. As for now, learning the basics of the copy machine and label making is more my speed. The experience has been incredible, and I have already learned so much. Within the next few weeks, I hope to be confident in answering phones and documenting cases. As I continue shadowing, I hope to feel more comfortable in standing on my own two legs in some of the jobs I complete, and hope to grow my relationships with clients as an intern. I have fostered great connections with my coworkers and other interns, and have established a friendly atmosphere in my workplace.
I am excited to get started on my project that Renewal House has tasked me with for the summer. As an agency, we provide weekly domestic violence support sessions. However, as a small institution with a staff of approximately 15 people, we do not have a sexual assault support group. Over the course of these 9 weeks, I will be researching similar agencies around the state with similar rural settings to extract and compile data on their respective sexual assault groups. I have started to reach out to these places through phone and email with my established list of questions hitting all the important details. I want to gather as much as I can in order to create the best functioning support group to serve our clients and the community as best as we possibly can. I am very excited and incredibly passionate about this project, and hope to instill a real change.