Riverview Center assisted by student volunteers

Aidan O'Driscoll, Staff Writer

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The Riverview Center is a nonprofit agency that supports survivors of sexual assault and domestic violence in the Iowa-Illinois area. The Decorah location is reliant on volunteers — comprised heavily of Luther students — to assist with the 24 hour crisis hotline, events, fundraising, and office work. Students must undergo victim advocacy training in order to volunteer at the center and assist survivors of assault.

Offering services in 14 of Iowa’s northeastern counties as well as parts of Illinois, the Riverview Center has established itself as an invaluable resource for survivors of sexual assault and domestic violence in the Iowa-Illinois area, including the Winneshiek County and Luther communities.

Among other services, Riverview offers legal, medical, and general advocacy and assistance with civil no contact orders. In addition, the center accompanies survivors to police interviews and emergency room visits and provides therapy.

Riverview is in contact with law enforcement and medical facilities 24 hours a day. On Luther’s campus, Riverview works in tandem with Norse Against Sexual Assault, provides a support center for survivors once a month that meets in the Women and Gender Equality Center and offers advocacy services for victims during sexual misconduct hearings.

Iowa Program Director for the Riverview Center Teresa Dane stressed the importance of privacy and availability for all of those who need their services, including students of Luther.

“Everything is completely free and completely confidential and sometimes that is important [for] students who may not want to have to go through insurance to get therapy and it allows them to have a little bit more control over their information,” Dane said. “We take all-comers. We do not discriminate: men, women, children, whoever needs us.”

Given its nonprofit status and 24 hour services, volunteers play an important role in keeping Riverview functioning properly. 

“[Having volunteers] helps us continue to do our work. We currently have just two staff in Decorah and they are stretched pretty thin,” Dane said. “We do a 24 hour, seven day a week crisis response and the volunteers help buffer that time that is spent at the ready-to-go and respond.”

Volunteers take on a number of different responsibilities, some of which include manning the 24 hour crisis hotline, crisis response, tabling, and various office duties.

Jenny Hickey (‘19) has volunteered for the Riverview Center in the past.

“It is heavy stuff, especially when you are working with a survivor,” Hickey said. “But [Riverview employees] are great people, and they are doing hard work because there are not many of them.”

Sadie Baker (‘21), another volunteer for the Riverview Center, also thinks the Riverview’s work is important.

“We don’t make [sexual assault] an issue that is easy to talk about, which is a problem,” Baker said. “Especially living on a college campus, where it does happen a lot. I think having a service like Riverview that makes it easier for those people who end up getting sexually assaulted to have a place to go to that is safe and talk to somebody.”

Recently, the amount of volunteers at the Riverview has been decreasing. Dane says that could be for a number of reasons, one of which is the extensive training required to become a volunteer advocate.

“I would say probably everyone’s lives are getting a little busier,” Dane said. “To do the training is a big commitment, but not having the training would leave them unprepared to help with the survivors needs so I mean it is not something that we can do away with. We have to do it and it’s good that we have to do it so people are prepared.”

But Dane believes people are interested in helping, and hopes more people will volunteer in the near future.

“We used to have a volunteer coordinator in Decorah and she had the ability to do more recruiting than we have been able to do, although we do hope to improve that,” Dane said. “There are definitely a lot of people on campuses that are very concerned and want to be supportive and I am hoping we can get people who will put their time where their interest is.”

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