Riverview Center helps survivors
April 13, 2017
Filed under Features
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Within a small office complex in Decorah, tucked behind a Maurice’s and a Subway, lies the Riverview Center. The Riverview Center is a nonprofit organization that provides victim services for survivors of sexual assault and domestic abuse. This office is only one part of a larger network, that serves fourteen counties in northern Iowa and provides services such as therapy.
Volunteer Coordinator of the Riverview Center Jessica Rupp explained the history of the organization and why there was, and continues to be, a need for organizations like this.
“We were actually founded in 1992, in Galena,” Rupp said. “How it came about was that our two founders witnessed a couple of sexual assault cases where there was a blatant disregard of the survivor’s rights. They were like, ‘we need to do something about this.’ After teaming up, and researching a little bit more, they had a board of directors get together and they established The Riverview Center.”
The Riverview Center offers a wide range of services, such as medical advocacy, legal advocacy, and community education programs. Because every situation is unique, the center mostly functions on a case-by-case basis. Volunteers mainly provide medical advocacy to survivors of sexual assault.
“In 2013, victim services — which is what we’re called — were restructured in Iowa,” Rupp said. “Riverview center serves fourteen counties in Iowa and two counties in Illinois. We do sexual assault services in Iowa, and in Illinois we do sexual assault and domestic services.”
Lydia Nelson (‘18) is a volunteer for the Riverview Center as a survivor advocate.
“I’ve been doing this since my freshman year and I’ve only been dispatched three times,” Nelson said. “You’ll go there and meet with the survivor and the nurse. How it usually goes is that a nurse will take down a statement from the survivor of what happened. Your job is to help them through that process because it is traumatic to relive that for a lot of people. From there it pretty much goes on to the medical exam and the process of actually doing a rape kit and a police statements. Your job is to be there for the survivors.”
Nelson went on to say that she highly encourages people to volunteer and that even if a person has a busy schedule it is easy to give time to the organization.
“It’s actually pretty low commitment,” Nelson said. “You pick two or three days a month that you can be on call. Then if you are on call and someone is assaulted and they go to the hospital, you are dispatched to go to the hospital to provide medical advocacy.”
Rupp believes that it is important above all else to show support to the survivors and to provide them support in whatever capacity they desire.
“It really depends on what the survivor’s needs are,” Rupp said. “Everything we do is centered around what that survivor wants. We do medical advocacy, which is meeting the survivor at the hospital and providing them options about their rights in a medical setting, and then we can go with them to any follow-up exams that they want.”
Both Rupp and Nelson recommend students or community members to volunteer for the Riverview Center.
Jenny Hickey (’19) is a student volunteer for Riverview Center and has used the center’s resources herself.
“Riverview really helped me get my voice back. Hickey said. “Becoming an advocate has been really empowering for me personally. To feel like I’m giving back, or I’m helping other people, because I’m able to connect with them and understand what they’ve went through.”