A Day in the Life of a Crisis Advocate

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Emily, Crisis Advocate, shares her typical day.

What led you to become a victim advocate?

A friend of mine had worked as a crisis advocate here at Friends of the Family. We were working together in Waterloo last year and she told me that I should apply because she had a feeling that I would be a good fit for FOF and I would really enjoy the position because of my past working with trafficking prevention.

What time does your day typically start?

I’m usually up by 6:30 so I have proper time to wake up before I start interacting with clients and answering phones at 8:00. I do this so I can be on top of everything I need to get done that day and so I can be providing the best support and assistance to clients without being groggy or grumpy.

How many survivors do you talk to on a daily basis? Are there constantly new survivors coming in?

I talk to anywhere from 5-15 clients per day, depending on how full the shelter is. If I were to include the survivors that I speak with just on the phone, then the number would be a bit higher.

I interact with new survivors every day. The shelter and crisis line are operating 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year and FOF is the designated emergency domestic violence/sexual assault/human trafficking shelter for Northeast Iowa. As such, we interact with most survivors seeking shelter in this region and in others.

What kinds of things do you help survivors with?

I assist survivors with assessment of sheltering needs and connect them with resources better suited to help them if coming to our shelter isn’t the best option for their circumstances or situation. If coming to the shelter is the step that needs to be taken, then I start with finding them transportation to our shelter. When they are here, I help with daily necessities (i.e. hygiene products, clothes, shoes, etc.), obtaining identity documents, connecting them with food, employment, and childcare resources. I help them make difficult phone calls, schedule appointments, get their address changed with the post office, and anything else within my physical and legal capabilities. I also just enjoy having regular conversations with them about anything they want to talk about, be it hilarious or ordinary. Between clients inside the shelter, I assist with intrapersonal problem solving and conflict resolution. As well, I complete the building inspections and ensure all maintenance and accessibility needs are addressed so that clients can stay in a clean, functional, and comfortable environment.

What time do you get home? Does work follow you home?

I usually get home around 4:30/5PM and sometimes the work comes home with me, but only when I am on-call or worried about a client and trying to figure out the best way to help them with their unique circumstances. The longer I’ve been with FOF the more I’ve been able to develop mechanisms to keep work at work. One co-worker really put into perspective for me by saying “When we tire ourselves out and worry about our clients while not at work, we don’t lighten their loads by a single ounce. Instead, we drain ourselves slowly and show up unable to help them to the best of our ability.”

How do you unwind?

I thoroughly enjoy cooking, tending to my house plants, listening to different DJ sets/mixes, and spending time with my friends. They are my preferred means of unwinding and destressing after a hectic workday or work week. My friends care for me deeply and play a large part in keeping me grounded and centered--for which I am eternally grateful.

What’s the hardest part of your job?

I would have to say it is not being able to know what happens after a client’s time in shelter (or on the phone) with me is done. I so badly want to know what happens for them after they’ve left our services and I want to call and check-in on them and ask them how their children are doing and if they got that job they wanted to apply for, if they ended up being able to get a car, if they spent their first night in their own unit celebrating or sleeping, what they’re most looking forward to in the coming weeks/months, and what they’re still struggling with after leaving the shelter. This is personally the hardest part for me.

What’s the best part of your job?

The best parts of my job are my coworkers and my clients I have the privilege of working with every day. My clients are beautiful, funny, and resolute in all their endeavors. My coworkers are beyond exceptional in their roles within the agency and are so incredibly supportive to each other. These two factors reassure me that I am exactly where I need to be, doing exactly what I want to do.

- Emily, Crisis Advocate