This partnership provides students with various opportunities to directly support those who have been impacted by domestic violence. Sometimes all it takes is one person to make a lasting impact on someone else's life.
Elon University’s partnership with Family Abuse Services (FAS) has allowed students to raise awareness about domestic violence. Located in the Family Justice Center in Burlington, the agency provides services to support domestic violence survivors and their children. Through the various volunteer opportunities created by this interdisciplinary and collaborative partnership, Elon University students have been able to help those directly impacted by instances of domestic violence.
Currently, many Elon students are participating internships at FAS. Human Service Studies and Public Health majors volunteer for their practicum, which requires them to complete approximately 100 hours at a public health or social services agency. However, anyone at Elon can become a volunteer at FAS, as the agency is always looking for volunteers and interns.
“I think it’s really great that Elon students go over to FAS because they like having them there, said Jo Crump ’21, the Leader in Collaborative Service student liaison between Elon University and FAS. “FAS is understaffed, likely underfunded and overworked. It’s a really great cause and I think we need more people devoting their time to it.”
Elon students can work in various program positions at FAS. One example is with the court navigator program. In this position, Elon students guide those who are seeking a restraining order or protective order against their abuser. Volunteers are assigned to a client the morning of their court hearing, and they accompany them to the hearing to provide emotional support during the entire court process. In this role, the volunteer can help a client with the language and the process of the court, offering much-needed support throughout a difficult process.
Additionally, FAS has support groups for clients. Through these support groups, FAS provides childcare to help alleviate the burden placed upon family members who worry about getting someone to watch their child while they go get the help they need. Elon students, specifically those who enjoy working with kids or have any interest in child health or education, can volunteer to take care of the children during this time.
Volunteers also have the opportunity to work at the Family Justice Center shelter. In this role, volunteers can expect to help clean, get supplies for the clients, and engage in other maintenance types of activities that are needed for the shelter to run both smoothly and comfortably. In their downtime, volunteers can interact with clients, providing emotional support when necessary. Similarly, volunteers can go to the transitional housing site to help plant flowers and engage in other welcoming activities, to make the unfamiliar place feel more like a home for the clients.
There is a Crisis Line where volunteers can answer callers and respond to their personal situations whether they need immediate help, looking for advice, or cannot decide if they should leave their abuser. Along similar lines, there is a Legality Assessment Program hotline that needs volunteers, which provides clients with services both after hours and on weekends.
FAS has a supervised visitation program for parents who share custody of a child. In this program, the child visits with both parents either once a week or once a month at the Family Justice Center. Volunteers are needed to document what goes on during this visit and what the interactions between the child and the parents look like.
Along with these hands-on opportunities, volunteers are always needed to perform data and file entry around the office.
It is clear that Elon’s partnership with FAS provides students with a wide variety of opportunities to make a difference in the lives of those who have been impacted by domestic violence.
Students who are interested in volunteering have to complete 20 hours of domestic violence training before they can work or complete an internship through FAS. This training takes place on the weekend and is usually held one or two times each semester. Because of this training requirement, FAS has recently struggled to get enough Elon students to volunteer. Crump said the training requirement can be intimidating, but it plays a valuable role.
“I think the 20 hours can sound really intense for a lot of people and it is a huge commitment, but it’s important because you’re dealing with super heavy topics,” Crump said. “You do really learn a lot about not even just women globally, but about how domestic violence happens anywhere and could happen to anyone. So if you have any interest whatsoever, do it.”
As the liaison between Elon and FAS, Crump coordinates volunteer work. She recruits volunteers on campus, connects them with opportunities that relate to what they are passionate about, validates service hours, and helps plan advocacy events on campus.
“I’m a public health major and a lot of people are starting to see violence against women as a growing public health issue,” she said. “I’m overall really passionate about women’s reproductive health and rights and I thought that this would be a good opportunity for me to get basic skills down because that’s part of what this type of career requires. I wanted to learn about real things people are experiencing in the community. I also wanted to be in a setting where I was still going to meet students and interact with them, so I thought shadowing the prevention coordinator was perfect.”
Some of the events Crump has helped coordinate include Take Back the Night, which was an open mic night sponsored by Alpha Chi Omega. This gave students an opportunity to come forward and share their domestic violence stories. Crump also helped host a series in October, which was domestic violence awareness month. The Gender and LGBTQIA center was there to support the event and provide students who participated with resources and pamphlets about domestic violence. There was also an advocate at the event in case anything in the movie or pamphlet became triggering for any of the attendees.
In addition, Crump assists FAS in coordinating off-campus events. FAS recently held its candlelight vigil, an annual ceremony held each fall. This event happens outside the Alamance County courthouse in Graham and honors the lives lost to domestic violence in North Carolina. The vigil features a community speaker and a candle ceremony where names are read, candles are lit and bells are rung for each domestic violence victim.
“Just having FAS here in the community makes a difference because it gives people who are experiencing these issues a place to go and people to talk to, all with total confidentiality,” Crump said. “Basically the mantra we go by is if someone comes in and says they’re being abused at home, we believe them. I just think that is so powerful in itself. Individuals become really empowered by that because they have to make these decisions for themselves. We are really just there as support along the way.”
Anyone interested in volunteering or getting involved with this partnership in any way, should email email@example.com. From there, Crump will reach out to the prevention coordinator at FAS and will organize volunteer opportunities. Interested students can also go to the GLC or the Kernodle Center in upstairs Moseley for more information about the opportunities this partnership offers.
“I honestly have loved getting to meet everyone over at FAS,” Crump said. “I feel like I’ve met really great people through Elon Volunteers! And I look forward to my office hours every week because there’s a lot of really great staff there and I think that through this position I’ve met a lot of people who really want to see me succeed. Overall, I’ve gotten a lot of unexpected friends and great mentors out of this experience.”