Meet Vic Batson!
How long have you been volunteering?
I have been volunteering with DSVS (Fairfax County Domestic and Sexual Violence Services) for seven years. I started out as a community outreach ambassador, and I have also volunteered at Artemis House, as well as on the hotline. I have been volunteering for the HASA (Hospital Accompaniment) program since July 2016.
All my life I have enjoyed volunteering in a wide variety of areas, from coaching, to tutoring to church activities. I was particularly active as a volunteer after I graduated from college. Once I got married and began raising a family, I didn’t have the time to volunteer like I had previously, however, once all the kids grew up and left the house, I wanted to start volunteering again.
Why volunteer for this specific program?
A friend of mine was sexually assaulted and was not able to get the support she needed and ended up handling things alone. It was my experience trying to support her that brought me to DSVS initially; from the beginning I thought the HASA program was a great idea and knew it could be very helpful. Even so, I wasn’t sure I would necessarily be a good fit being a male, so I was initially hesitant. I was encouraged to volunteer by a DSVS staff member, and I’m glad I did! It has been especially rewarding to see how the program has grown and how much good it has done.
What’s the most challenging part of being a volunteer?
The most challenging part of being a volunteer with HASA is processing the stories we hear and the interactions we have. Listening and providing support is not a problem but processing the experience on the ride home can sometimes be challenging. It is surprising that so many people in our community don’t have a good support structure. They really need the support the HASA program and DSVS provides.
What’s your biggest concern?
My biggest concern is that some of the programs may be cut in the future due to funding cuts or a change in priorities. Unfortunately, there is much work still to be done and the HASA program provides a vital service.
What’s the most rewarding?
With many of the programs I’m involved in, including HASA, as a volunteer you have limited interaction with a client, and so most of the time I hope I’ve done and said the right things. Honestly, I’m often not certain how much I’ve helped the person seeking services. Normally, I’m OK with that because I believe in the mantra of “never underestimate your ability to make someone else’s life better, even if you never know it.” But, every once in a while, I do make a connection with a client, and I know I have helped them. Sometimes you just know, and sometimes the client will come right out and tell you. It’s amazing to me that given the horrible things they’ve gone through, a victim has the ability to look past their pain and express their appreciation. When that happens, there is no one word to adequately describe it; it is a combination of rewarding, humbling and heartwarming.
What have you learned while volunteering - about volunteering in general, about DSVS, about yourself?
I have always been a huge proponent of volunteering. I have always believed we personally rise by lifting others. I’ve also tried to focus on happiness and self-renewal and have found the best way to both is by helping others. I also believe in the power of one - that each one of us can make a difference and that change can happen when each of us is willing to be the one to do something, whether it’s volunteering or simply believing a victim.
Working with the wonderful DSVS staff and nurses in the FACT (Forensic Assessment and Consultation Team) department is also incredibly rewarding. They are so knowledgeable, caring and supportive not only toward the clients, but toward us volunteers as well. Learning from them, working with them and forging new friendships has been equally rewarding. They have encouraged me to do things I never imagined, and the only reason I have been willing to is because of their guidance and support. The office and staff of DSVS have set an example in Fairfax County that I wish the rest of the country would follow, and I’m proud to be a part of their volunteer community. This environment set by the staff has also fostered close relationships between volunteers. When I first volunteered, I never expected to get to know so many amazing people.
What advice do you have for people who may be thinking about becoming a DSVS volunteer?
It’s OK to start slow. Although I have been involved with several programs over the years, I started as an outreach volunteer. As I got to know the staff and better understand the other DSVS programs, I began volunteering with other programs. At the start, however, I never envisioned participating in some of the programs I’ve been involved in, like, the hotline or hospital accompaniment, because I didn’t have a background or education in social services or counseling, and I didn’t think I was qualified.
I remember near the end of one particular training session, I was thinking I still wasn’t ready, and as if the trainer was reading my mind, she said not to worry if we felt like we weren’t ready, that we were all qualified because we had empathy. I have relied on that idea many times over the years when I wasn’t sure of myself. In those times of uncertainty, I let my empathy guide me. So, I would say the same thing to other volunteers who may be unsure like I was. If you care about others and you’re willing to volunteer in this area and go through all the training, then you have the caring and empathy required to be successful as a DSVS volunteer.
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).