Why I Advocate for Survivors


April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month, and in honor of that we are pleased to share one of the stories of the many people who make the YWCA’s comprehensive services for victims possible. Volunteer Advocates provide support to victims of sexual assault (adult, adolescent, and pediatric) and domestic violence, as well as their friends and family members who seek help through the YWCA’s 24-hour confidential helpline, the YWCA Nurse Examiner Program, and in area hospital emergency departments. 


By Shirley A. Taylor

YWCA Volunteer Advocate


People are always asking me why I became a Sexual Assault Advocate. It’s one of those decisions in life that is so hard to explain, but feels so right. Advocating is in my blood, and something that I am truly passionate about. Being a support to promote the best interest of our patients at the YWCA is such an important role, and one that many people don’t know that we offer.

After a traumatic event like a sexual assault, care in a safe setting is so important. At the YWCA, our mission of the Nurse Examiner Program is to provide a comprehensive, trauma-informed approach in a safe environment that offers an immediate response to those who have experienced sexual assault. Most people know this service as a “rape exam,” but it’s so much more. We offer advocacy, medical care, safety planning, and great resources. This process empowers our patients to make decisions that aid in their healing and result in taking control of their life.

As an Advocate, I support the patient throughout the exam. I make sure they understand the questions, and are comfortable along the way. Our patients control the exam, and we want to make sure that they are 100% comfortable through the whole process. It is so important for the survivor to know that we BELIEVE them, we SUPPORT them, and we have their best interest at heart.

So when I think back to that question, why I became a Sexual Assault Advocate, the answer is clear. I became a Sexual Assault Advocate because I want to ensure the safety, care, and support for survivors. I want to make sure that they have a voice, and help them take control of their lives. If you’re considering a volunteer opportunity in the community, I would highly recommend that you check out the YWCA West Central Michigan. We are a family of nurses and trained volunteer Advocates who are passionate, and it truly is a great way to impact the community in a BIG way.

Shirley Taylor is a Probate Trust Specialist at Varnum LLP, a law firm based in Grand Rapids, Michigan. She specializes in the Estate and Trust area doing
administrative work and assisting with Probate and Trust Administrations. When Shirley isn’t glued to a computer screen at the office, she spends her time volunteering in the Greater Grand Rapids community, serving organizations like the YWCA West Central Michigan and Catholic Charities West Michigan.

Join Us

With Sexual Assault Awareness Month here, there is no better time to get involved as an Advocate at the YWCA. Advocate training opens this spring. Interested? Contact Suzanne Katerberg at skaterberg@ywcawcmi.org.