My name is Victoria, I’m 46 years old and live in Dorset with my husband, 13 year old son and 9 year old daughter. We moved down from London 8 years ago and it was the best decision we ever made. We are lucky enough to live a 5 minute walk from the beach and share a beach hut with a group of friends. My favourite times always involve the beach, whether that be a solitary walk when I need some space and time to think, or a gathering of friends and children trying to cook a batch of sausages on a camping BBQ and watching the sun setting.

My involvement with STARS started 3 years ago. The children had passed the stage where  they needed me 24/7 and my husband had decided to work from home, so this gave me the time and freedom to start exploring what my next step would be. My background was in psychotherapy and counselling. I wanted to find something that would build my confidence back up as well as using my skills and meeting some new people. Having already volunteered for Childline whilst living in London I knew this was a great way to support a fantastic charity. I went onto the Indeed employment site and an advert for STARS popped up. They were looking for volunteers for the helpline. I did some research on the charity and was so impressed with their ethos and support to victims of sexual violence. I rang the charity straight away and managed to get myself an interview with the lovely Simone. The interview was a terrifying prospect, having been self employed and then not working for nearly 15 years. I somehow struggled through it and was offered a place on the training. I loved the training. I was lucky enough to be with a fantastic group of people and the sessions were so interesting and informative, including a visit to The Shores (sexual assault referral centre) listening skills and talks by current staff and volunteers. By the end of the training I felt very well equipped to man the helpline. The first step after completing the training is to be paired with a mentor, someone who is already volunteering. I was lucky to be paired with Emma, one of the kindest souls, who guided me through the process and was an excellent example of an empathic listener. The first call I took was scary, what if I said the wrong thing or put the caller off ever calling again? I managed not to do either of those things, thankfully and was so happy to offer some people who were struggling a safe place to explore their feelings. I volunteered every 2 to 3 weeks and always enjoyed my time in the centre and got such a positive feeling from everyone who worked or volunteered there.

Tracey, the Lead ISVA (Independent Sexual Violence Advisor), had talked to us during the training, it was a light bulb moment. The ISVA job sounded like a role where I could use all my skills alongside working for a fantastic charity. After nearly a year of volunteering an ISVA job came up. I decided to bite the bullet and apply. Even getting an interview seemed like a long shot. When Helen called to let me know that they had had a lot of applicants, in my mind I was like, that’s that then! Somehow, I managed to get through the interview, which included a group task and walking around the office talking to the lovely members of staff. I really didn’t hold out much hope but decided to chalk it up as a good experience, I could always try again if other roles came up. When Helen called to offer me the Children and Young People’s ISVA job I think I probably screamed down the phone, I absolutely couldn’t believe my luck. An added bonus was that Alison, a lovely woman who I’d met during my interview, had also been offered a job. 

Here I am nearly 2 years into the role. I love working with the children and young people. The whole STARS team is absolutely fantastic, you can feel the warmth and support radiating around the place. There have certainly been challenges and all of the children’s stories break my heart slightly. As for the ISVA team, what a special group of people. We laugh, a lot, sometimes cry but I always know we have each other’s backs, I couldn’t wish to work for a better organisation.

I would urge anyone who is thinking of volunteering to just do it, you never know where it's going to lead.

If you would like to become a volunteers for STARS Dorset please click the link here for information on roles available and who to contact. Thank you.