by Pavan K. Johal
Every week I come to BWSS not knowing what kind of phone calls I would get. There were days I would feel heavy hearted for the women and their stories. I felt compelled to help in any way possible. My volunteer back up and I would try to get any information, resources or connections that would help the woman on the line. Sometimes all someone needs is an empathetic voice telling them, “I am here for you and I understand what you are going through”. I learned how much the crisis line workers help by being sincere listeners to someone talking about their hurt and the violence they survived. Women are so strong for being able to share their story with a volunteer, but on the contrary they are constantly being told that they are not strong and that the abuse might be their fault. One of the rewarding things about working on the crisis and intake line is the sincere “thank you” from a woman at the end of a call. Never in my life has a “thank you” felt as sincere as when I realized I helped a woman escape violence and which saved her life. It is not just me, but each and every volunteer and worker that contribute to BWSS makes a difference in women’s lives. Whether it is someone who just needs to talk, someone needing to escape a violent situation or needing a transition home for her and her children, we make a difference. After my shifts are over I hope each woman received help and found safety.
After volunteering on the crisis and intake line, I started to co-facilitate the Healing Connections drop-in group (running every Tuesday from 12pm to 2pm). What a change it was from speaking to women solely over the telephone to face to face. It is always wonderful to see all the women who connect and escape from isolation. It is beautiful to see that although women are in a struggle they can still empower each other through sharing their stories. When I enter the room I can feel that this is a place where no one is judged, we all have our own stories about why we are here and through our stories we can help others realize they are not alone and there is a way through this dark period. After a few weeks volunteering for the drop in group I realized how much of a difference one person can make.
I was told that one person cannot create a change, but my experience at BWSS has proven that each one of us and our work create a positive change. BWSS answers over 13,000 crisis calls per year and without each individual woman working the lines we would not be able to help so many women escape violence.
I am a true believer in the power of one. If one woman speaks up and tells her story, five will hear it and realize they are not alone. If one volunteer picks up the crisis line and speaks to a woman for 20 minutes, that phone call helped her. At BWSS I feel I have made a difference in saving lives and helping women survive in a world of oppression.
Read more about our 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-based Violence campaign:
If you could do something to end violence against girls and women, wouldn’t you?