Commentaries: Survivors’ lives benefit from sexual assault response advocates


Due to COVID-19, many of us have been reevaluating our mind-sets and expectations, looking for new life pathways and finding ways to rise up and support each other.

 In 2020, YWCA Delaware’s Sexual Assault Response Center (SARC) was a lifeline for survivors of domestic and sexual violence. SARC experienced a 25% increase almost overnight from women in crisis needing intervention and support. At a time when safe spaces such as workplaces, schools and other public gathering spots were unavailable to domestic violence victims, YWCA SARC was still available 24/7 because of the 35 trained volunteers who cover our crisis hotline. We invite you to consider finding your new pathway — your way to rise up and support others — by becoming a trained sexual assault response advocate (SARA).

SARAs are the backbone of crisis intervention and receive comprehensive training (offered virtually), plus ongoing skills enhancement for self-care, to provide support and safety to others who are sexual assault survivors. SARA volunteers enable the SARC professional team to focus energy and time on providing intensive, short-term counseling, case management, safety planning and accompaniments to the police station, courthouse or hospital.

There is no better, more immediate way to impact the lives of survivors, their families and our communities than by being on the other end of the line when someone is at their most vulnerable. Sexual violence is a widespread problem that affects all demographics, including men, women, children, military members, the LGBTQ community and elderly individuals.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention averages that the economic burden of medical costs, loss of productivity, court proceedings, law enforcement efforts and other expenses associated with sexual assault in the United States at approximately $3.1 trillion. For Delawareans, that breaks down to roughly $122,461 per victim. Almost 1 in 5 adult women in Delaware report having been assaulted, and sexual assault is routinely underreported.

Anyone interested in volunteering as a SARA is encouraged to visit our website, SARA | YWCA Delaware.

Volunteers must be 18 or older, have access to a computer with secure internet, a phone with call waiting, reliable transportation, be able to respond in person at a hospital, police station or courthouse, pass a background check and complete comprehensive training.

YWCA Delaware’s mission is to eliminate racism, empower women, help families and strengthen communities. Our programs in housing, economic empowerment and health and safety reach more than 7,000 individuals each year. To learn more, visit us at and follow us on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

Together, we are powerful and unstoppable.

Stephanie L. Staats is chief executive officer for YWCA Delaware.