For this month's column, I reached out to the volunteers who work directly with the women and men seeking Wise Options' services to explain why they give of themselves to victims of domestic violence and sexual assault.
"I volunteer to change statistics," said Radecka Appiah-Padi, a certified Wise Options volunteer advocate.
"Many years ago, I had a friend - Ms. M - a beautiful, intelligent college-educated professional woman. We were both immigrants in our new homeland. Unknown to me, her home was a torture chamber without walls or locks. Behind her smiles and laughter my friend hid a secret of pain, fear and worthlessness," said Appiah-Padi.
"One day I got an urgent call to get to Ms. M.'s house. There I found her battered, bruised and bleeding. Her husband - the love of her life - had done that to her. To my shock, I learned from her young children that this was a regular occurrence," she said.
For Appiah-Padi - Ms. M gave a name, a face and a reality to the painful secret lives of domestic violence victims hiding in plain sight.
"This shattered my misconceived views about domestic violence. I got the wake-up call that domestic violence cuts across all races and socio-economic lines. Domestic violence was no more about faceless statistics. It happens to people I know and care about. What was I going to do about it?"
For others, the decision to volunteer in this capacity comes from a different place.
Nancy Steil is a Wise Options advocate who feels a personal responsibility to help support victims like Ms. M.
"There are so many people who are in unfortunate circumstances without resources or family or friend support systems," Steil said. "Those of us with fewer burdens should feel a moral and ethical obligation to assist the victims as they work through their current problems so that they can achieve a better way of life."
Wise Options also has the support of male advocates like Brian Brooking, who explained why becoming a victim advocate was important to him.
"Domestic violence and sexual assault are happening right in our neighborhoods, our homes, to our friends and families. Instead of burying your head in the sand, get educated and get informed. Knowledge is power," he said.
One thing all Wise Options advocates have in common is that they all are living the now cliched advice of Mahatma Ghandi - they are actively being the change they wish to see in the world. They serve as the light at the end of the tunnel for many victims. For others, they are a strong tower of unwavering support and guide and counsel through a convoluted legal system.
"I volunteer to make a difference for victims of domestic violence," Radecka concluded. I volunteer for the Ms. M of the community."
For more information about becoming a Wise Options volunteer advocate, call 570-322-4637.
Thompson is the communications and development manager at the YWCA Northcentral PA.