Ashley Wells stumbled upon the Medical Advocacy program at BARCC when she was unhappy with her work and was looking for volunteer opportunities in Boston. A Google search led her to the BARCC website, and the mission caught her eye. Three years later, and she’s been honored as one of our volunteers of the year for her dedication and reliability.
The Medical Advocacy program, whose volunteers meet survivors in the 19 local emergency rooms BARCC serves, stood out as a necessity to Ashley. Medical advocate volunteers work with survivors to support them in the emergency department after a sexual assault. Each medical advocate takes one shift a week to ensure that there is coverage 24 hours a day, seven days a week (44 shifts in total!). A medical advocate’s number one goal is to ensure the survivor is listened to, even if they want the volunteer to leave.
“I immediately wanted to be a part of the program and to support it. No one should have to be alone during this process, and I wanted to be able to provide that immediate support to survivors,” Ashley said.
BARCC medical advocates have informed survivors about the sexual assault exam and what it meant in terms of reporting the assault, helped survivors work with hospital staff to ensure their billing and insurance concerns were addressed, and talked parents and support systems through how to do what was best for the survivor.
Ashley was nominated to be one of BARCC’s volunteers of the year, an honor that is recognized at the annual Champions for Change Gala & Auction, for her dedication to the Medical Advocacy program. Sandra Leahy, who coordinates the medical advocates, said Ashley is an extremely dependable volunteer and has consistently held the busiest shift.
“Ashley approaches every case and survivor with an open mind in a way that I’ve never seen anyone do before,” said Sandra. “She accepts people where they are and does an amazing job of validating their experiences and how they are feeling, whatever those feelings may be.”
When she first started, the joyful moments that Ashley had with survivors at hospitals surprised her.
“Sexual violence is a serious issue, and I think a lot of people, especially people that might be more unfamiliar with this issue assume, that it’s very depressing to do this work,” said Ashley. “This work can be extremely hard, but at the same time so much of my experience with survivors has been incredibly uplifting.”
Learn more about volunteering with BARCC and the Medical Advocacy program.
Come to the Champions for Change Gala & Auction on November 3, where Ashley will be honored with her fellow volunteers of the year!
BARCC offers free and confidential services to survivors of sexual violence and their loved ones. Learn more about our services or call our 24-hour hotline at 800-841-8371.