In honor of Resilience’s 45th anniversary and our theme “Celebrating Resilience,” we’re celebrating the people who make #OurResilience possible and telling the stories of some of our biggest supporters, starting with our volunteers.
Resilience was founded in 1974 by a fierce team of 10 volunteers—medical and nursing students who met around kitchen tables to fulfill the duties of running a 501(c)3 while providing direct services and advocating for change within the healthcare system. For 12 years, Resilience was entirely volunteer run. Today Resilience coordinates more than 260 volunteers who are on call to be dispatched to 17 Chicago hospital emergency rooms—24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Our city relies on their strength and compassion. We can’t appreciate our volunteers enough for leading the fight to end sexual violence.
At 17 years of volunteer service and over 6,230 hours on call (and counting!), Victoria Velinski is Resilience’s longest serving Volunteer Medical Advocate. In 2019, in honor of Victoria’s extraordinary and unmatched commitment to survivors, Resilience created the Victoria Velinski Award for the Longest Serving Volunteer, which is presented at our annual Volunteer Appreciation Night. Keep reading to learn more about Victoria and click here to learn about our volunteer program.
When did you start volunteering with Resilience?
VICTORIA: I began with Resilience in March 2002.
Why did you decide to start volunteering? Why have you stayed with us for so long?
VICTORIA: I was tabling for an organization at a large volunteer fair. On my downtime I walked around to see other area organizations. I saw the table for “Rape Victim Advocates” (Resilience) and went over to see what they did. When I found out about their work with survivors of sexual violence I had an immediate response of “I want to do that.” I signed up for their next volunteer training and the rest is history! I have stayed with Resilience for so long because I believe in and completely support their mission statement.
Resilience is an independent, not-for-profit organization dedicated to the healing and empowerment of sexual assault survivors through non-judgmental crisis intervention counseling, individual and group trauma therapy, and medical and legal advocacy in the greater Chicago metropolitan area. Resilience provides public education and institutional advocacy in order to improve the treatment of sexual assault survivors and to effect positive change in policies and public attitudes toward sexual assault.
What are the most challenging moments you’ve experienced as a volunteer?
VICTORIA: My youngest survivor was 4 years old and my oldest survivor was 79. I have had every age and gender expression in-between. Every single call brings its own unique set of challenges. I do have a few calls that have stayed with me on a deeply emotional level and I still think about those individuals and hope they have been able to move forward and have happy and fulfilled lives.
Tell me about a time when volunteering made you feel hopeful OR what is your favorite memory as a volunteer?
VICTORIA: I remember my very first [emergency room page] like it was yesterday. After the [visit] was finished, the survivor’s mother grabbed my hand and said “I don’t know how we would have done this without you.” After everyone left I was walking out of the hospital towards my car and I could hear the theme song from the movie “Rocky” in my head. I truly felt I had made a difference! As a 3rd level advocate I love having new volunteers on my shift and helping them navigate their first calls. I especially like debriefing with advocates after their calls. Talking about their feelings and experience and giving them any support they may need.
How did you tell family and friends about your decision to volunteer with Resilience? Are there any conversations that stand out to you?
VICTORIA: My family and friends were not at all surprised I would volunteer for Resilience. I received nothing but encouragement.
How has volunteering with Resilience changed you?
VICTORIA: I have learned how to have good self-care! You cannot do this work for a long time without honoring and taking care of yourself. I also feel very confident when challenging ideas that are victim-blaming or perpetuate sexual violence myths.
Is there someone who embodies resilience who has had a strong influence on you?
VICTORIA: Both my mom and late dad, Sonja and John, were great examples of doing service for others.
Years from now, how would you like Resilience to be remembered?
VICTORIA: As the best advocacy group ever!
What is your message to people who are interested in volunteering or who are looking for a way to help survivors of sexual violence?
VICTORIA: Do it! If going to an emergency room is not for you – do phone banking, stuff envelopes, carry signs at protest, raise your voice in song, donate your time or your money or your energy. We are all connected on this beautiful planet and we can all work together to end sexual violence.