Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Volunteer Spotlight: Rick Sievers

After separating himself from volunteer and social service work for over a decade, Rick Sievers has found happiness volunteering with YWCA’s Sexual Assault Program.  Rick has been volunteering with YWCA for about a year and a half and said he finds the work healing. A survivor of childhood sexual abuse, Rick felt he wanted to help, just as he had been helped. He also recognized that men are usually the aggressors. As a volunteer, he wanted to find opportunities that were rewarding to him, yet sensitive to the needs of the survivors. Group facilitation was the answer.

Rick is currently co-facilitating two groups offered by the Sexual Assault Program: the journaling group and the men’s group. He’s always found journaling to be a great benefit to his own recovery and wants to share his “$5 therapist” with other survivors. “My journal is like a friend,” said Rick. “I can write whatever I want in it. I don’t have to have correct punctuation. I don’t have to be politically correct. I don’t have to be kind or nice… but I still am,” he added with a smile. The journaling group is for women 21 and older who have been affected by sexual assault. Attendees do not have to say they’ve been assaulted, or that they’ve been a survivor.  During the group sessions, Rick wants to help people find safety within themselves and beyond; “Can we access that safe place within ourselves through journaling, and can we find someone who can support us in our lives?”
Laurie Schacht, SAP Director sits with Rick Sievers.

The men’s group is available to males 18 and older who have been affected in any way by sexual assault. It’s a 5 week forum for men to make connections with each other and to discuss what it’s like to be a male in our society. In Rick’s experience, the expectation was that, “You’re not allowed to have feelings. You gotta be tough.” Societal expectations like these can be compounded for those affected by sexual assault. Rick sees this opportunity as a time to address the impact of those expectations and to provide a space when men can connect, during a time when men may feel isolated from each other.

Rick says he will always be in the process of healing. He recalls more than 15 years ago when he was a social worker, “I would come home anxious and depressed. I would just lie on the floor and stare at the ceiling for hours. It felt like I put the cart in front of the horse, in some way.” He quit social work in ’96 and went to massage school, finding it to be a great way to start re-inhabiting his body. It helped him to be comfortable with safe touch, and to be comfortable as a male. After his partner died in 2005, Rick’s memories flooded back into his life. He sought therapy and joined a group. He found employment as a butler, which allowed him to really focus on healing. After 12 years of working as a butler, he retired, bought a farm, and turned on his radio. “I heard something about the sex scandal in the church, and I thought, ‘this isn’t about sex, this is about rape.’ I wanted to do something about it. I thought ‘maybe I could participate and help some way.’” And so, the volunteering began.

Rick knew when he met Laurie and the other staff at the Sexual Assault Program that he made the right choice. While going through training, he started to see a whole other dynamic at YWCA that he would be navigating: being a male in an agency whose mission is to empower women and eliminate racism. “As a male, consider why you want to volunteer here: Is to be a human being, to explore your own life, to really be of service, or is it to protect women and children?” said Rick. For him, it’s about focusing on human kindness, “Men often see themselves in a protector role, but what are you saying about women by saying you want to protect them?” As a male, he thinks it’s most important to be yourself, but to also be very open to new ideas. He said the training and workshops opportunities offered at YWCA have really helped him to explore himself and continue his journey of healing. Rick said, quite eloquently, “If you’re gunna volunteer, this is the place to do it, but don’t do it for somebody else, do it with somebody else.”

If you’re interested in volunteering, contact Stephanie Barr, Director of Volunteer Development at 360 906 9112 or sbarr@ywcaclarkcounty.org. To learn more about the two groups Rick will start co-facilitating this month, contact us at 360 696 0167, or view the flyers online: Journaling Group, Men’s Group.

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