We recently finished a new advocate training with several awesome new staff members.
We wanted to share some insight with our readers about how our peer advocates are trained and what that training looks like.
We sat down with Melissa Kaufmann, Training and Volunteer Coordinator, to discuss training and what makes a good advocate. Melissa has done great work on both the Helpline and the National Dating Abuse Hotline. She has been an advocate herself and now helps prepare new staff to take their first calls and chats. Melissa even helped develop the training used by loveisrespect.
Melissa, can you please tell us about advocate training?
Melissa: Advocate training is close to 40 hours of education about dating abuse and all the essential skills needed to provide crisis intervention, non-judgmental support and appropriate resources.
During the training we cover topics such as the dynamics of abusive relationships, safety planning, active listening, callers who identify as abusive, LGBTQ relationships that are abusive, friends and family, sexual coercion and abuse, and many more.
We have incorporated activities, videos and role plays to keep the class engaged and learning. We also watch Reviving Ophelia and have a discussion afterwards about all of the abusive behaviors they spotted and about why it’s hard to leave an abusive relationship.
Why is advocate training so important?
Melissa: Advocate training is important because talking to people in abusive situations is not always instinctual. It is important to understand the dynamics about how these relationships start and why it is hard to leave them to be able to help someone.
Also we’re used to always giving advice and telling people what to do. When a friend comes to us for advice our first reaction is to tell them what to do or tell them what we would do in that situation.
We know that when people reach out for help and advice the most effective way to help someone is to help them come up with options and empower them to make the best decision for themselves.
What makes a good advocate?
Melissa: A good advocate is some one who will listen openly and provide support and guidance without judgement. They also are able to express empathy for those they are helping and have a creative mind so they can problem solve and help think of options.
A lot of our contacts have very few resources available to them and our advocates may have to engage in critical thinking and help them come up with solutions that may be “outside of the box.”