How Volunteering Changed Delaney Patterson’s Life
Delaney Patterson is an Unself ambassador and one of our most active volunteers, with over 300 tracked hours. Most of Delaney’s hours are for her volunteer efforts as a Victim Advocate for the Boulder Police Department. At least once a month she’s on call to assist them with trauma scenes, providing support and resources to victims. Read about how Delaney’s forged meaningful connections during her volunteer tenure:
What first drew you to the Boulder Victim Advocacy Program?
“I remember one day feeling like I wasn’t doing enough in the community. I was working my full time job and considering going back to school. My mom asked me, ‘Why don’t you give back instead?,’ and encouraged me to apply to the volunteer victim advocate program, which she’d been a part of when I was younger. I looked into the program and discovered Boulder was looking for more volunteers. I immediately applied, was interviewed and chosen to go through the training.”
After your training, how did you decide to commit to becoming a victim advocate?
“I remember it was a Saturday morning and part of our training that day was going to focus on suicide. A woman came in to speak about a personal experience she had. I remember she played The Fray song, How to Save a Life, and it was incredibly emotional and some people had tears in their eyes, including myself. During her presentation, she mentioned that she remembered the presence of an advocate and feeling so appreciative of them, even though she didn’t exactly remember what they did. After she shared that, I remember thinking, ‘Yeah, I want to do this.’ And I finished the training. There were multiple times throughout the training where I was so grateful for the opportunity I had been given, and I knew this was what I needed to be doing.”
Can you tell me about a time where you had a meaningful connection with an individual victim while on-call?
“My first on-scene call was for an unattended death. It was in the morning. A young woman had found her dad had died overnight. When I got there, her grandpa was there and they were preparing for her mom to get back from work. Her sisters were on their way as well. I was really nervous. It was so quiet. The young woman was on the couch, visibly upset. I wasn’t sure what to do, where to sit… My partner advocate was on the ground sitting, and we talked about how her dad was a Broncos fan and the memories they shared. She started crying. I got up and sat next to her and rubbed her back and she just turned into me. I definitely forgot how nervous I was; I was literally holding back tears.
When I was driving to the scene I was like, ‘You need to do this and this,’ running through a list. But as soon as I got to the house — I forgot all that and just wanted this family to know that we are there for them and to offer support. It felt really good I was able to be there with them.”
How do you feel this experience impacted your advocacy work or other areas of your life?
“After that call, I felt like it’s okay if I don’t know how to act or what to do. We have really good training, and we go through a lot of scenarios. But you just never know! I realized it’s okay to go into a call not knowing what’s going to happen and how you’re going to react. It’s your presence, just showing up that’s important. And hopefully you help someone, even if that’s not always the case. I still do get nervous, but we have the best advocates and we are there for eachother.
In general, I’m also more aware of how people go through trauma differently, and I’m more grateful too. It feels good to just be giving back. You realize these are some of the worst times these people will ever go through, and they may not even remember you. They may have a foggy memory or the details might get lost. But knowing that you were there and helped out — it’s just a really good feeling.”
Can you tell me more about how you get on the same level with a victim?
“You can’t bring anything into a scene. You want them to know you’re here for them and only them. You don’t care what else is going on.
From my experience, a lot of victims don’t even know advocates exist. Once they start asking us questions, they feel more comfortable with us. My age and how young I am has been brought up, and I just disregard it. I just want to help people and it doesn’t matter how old I am.”
What’s next for you and your advocacy work?
“I want to do more training. There’s not one big focus for me, rather, I’d like to be able to better help in many different types of traumatic situations…In our monthly advocate meetings we discuss our cases to see how everyone handles different situations and talk about your personal experience. You can see who’s been through what types of situations and if they need any help. My supervisor is great about this too and is really understanding. If I’m on-scene at 3am and have a question or if I need to process call afterwards, she’ll pick up anytime.
With the horrible Vegas shooting this week — and all the hurricanes — I’ve been hearing a lot about advocates from all over the country flying out, hosting special trainings, and helping with those situations. Moments like these I am reminded why I am volunteering and why I love to do it. Someday I would like to receive more training and be given opportunities to go help and support people around the nation in their time of need.”
Our team at Unself is continually inspired by Delaney and her incredible work. To find out more information about the Victim Advocate program at the Boulder Police Department, check out: https://bouldercolorado.gov/police/victim-services