Meet Joan Meagher, Court Advocate Volunteer!
How long have you been volunteering? How long have you held this role in Fairfax County?
I have been volunteering since December 2018 for Fairfax County as a court advocate.
Why volunteer? Why volunteer for this specific program?
I wanted to volunteer once I retired, when knew I would be able to commit the needed time. In the past, I volunteered on a more informal basis because all too often work got in the way. I also knew when I did look for a volunteer position, I wanted it to be in an area that supported women. I had explored different options because Fairfax County has so many valuable programs, and I decided the opportunities in Domestic and Sexual Violence Services suited me. Once I took the training, which was over the course of several months, and met the people who oversee the program, more specifically the Victim Advocates, and all the wonderful volunteers already in place, I knew I was in the right place. I loved their enthusiasm and compassion and commitment.
What is the most challenging part of being a volunteer? What is your biggest concern?
The most challenging part of being a court advocate is trying to be as supportive as possible to the individual victims, knowing that although my support is earnest, we are limited in what we can do.
What is the most rewarding?
The most rewarding part of being a court advocate is seeing how grateful the victims are to have someone who will listen to them and help them formulate their next steps in being safe and staying safe. They are often so alone in their situation and just being able to talk with someone who cares and wants to help gives them a sense of hope.
What have you learned while volunteering — about volunteering in general, about DSVS, about yourself?
Through my volunteering experience, I've become very attached to the program and the people I work with and surprise myself at how much I miss it when I am not able to be there, as in the present pandemic. This is a terrible time not to be able to be available to so many in need. I really have come to understand the need in our community and how important DVAC's efforts are. Personally, I have discovered I have, over time, developed my own approach to speaking with victims, and I think they are comfortable with me and trust me. I have had great training and worked with a wonderful victim advocate, Ayaan Ali, who allowed me to develop my own style. Her positive attitude has given me confidence and she has shown me how the office is a team effort and supportive of each other's roles.
What advice do you have for people who may be thinking about becoming a DSVS volunteer?
I would tell them it's a wonderful way to help a diverse population desperately in need of compassion and kindness. But I would also stress that sometimes the stories you hear are a lot to carry and it is important that you find ways to step away from its intensity. You will get the support and training you need to be successful. And you will always come home counting your blessings.
This article posting is part of the Domestic and Sexual Violence Services' Volunteer Voices monthly newsletter for current and potential volunteers. If you're not already a volunteer, learn how to get involved. Find out about upcoming trainings, volunteer trainings, happenings around the DSVS office and information about articles, books, media recommendations and more.
Learn more about the Domestic and Sexual Violence Services (DSVS).