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BENNINGTON — A local group helping victims of domestic and sexual violence is looking for volunteers to staff its hotline, just as calls for assistance are starting to rise after falling during the pandemic.

Project Against Violent Encounters, which serves Bennington County, needs at least eight more hotline volunteers to augment its existing team of 17.

“More volunteers allows us to provide better coverage,” PAVE spokeswoman Sarah Amatruto said. “We always need help.”

PAVE data shows that since October, calls to its hotline have started ticking up following a slump in the first half-year of the coronavirus pandemic.

From a low of 20 calls in September of last year, PAVE received 54 calls this June — its biggest monthly number since. This year’s figures are still below those of 2019, but the trend points to more people reaching out for help.

“A lack of calls does not indicate a sudden lack of domestic violence,” Amatruto said, “it indicates that people are unable to reach us.”

Domestic violence advocates believe that while people were sheltering in place to help slow the spread of COVID-19, domestic violence victims were in such close proximity to their abusers that they didn’t have many opportunities to call for help.

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And those who reach out to PAVE decide what type of help they want, the Bennington-based organization said. Many people who contact them just want to find someone who will listen and offer emotional support; they’re not interested in taking action right away.

PAVE’s hotline volunteers are apparently all working from home. They get alerted whenever a call comes in and then get in touch with the caller.

Community members who are interested in volunteering need to meet the following qualifications: be at least 18 years old, one year removed from any trauma related to domestic and/or sexual violence, as well as able to pass a background check.

Volunteers go through 20 hours of training and receive continued support from PAVE’s volunteer coordinator.

To request an application form, or to find out more about the position, please email outreachadvocate@pavebennington.com.

PAVE also offers other services, such as legal assistance, family time and support during sexual assault forensic exams. It also runs a domestic violence shelter at an undisclosed location.

Contact Tiffany Tan at ttan@benningtonbanner.com or @tiffgtan on Facebook and Twitter.


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