Sexual assault victims can turn to volunteer companions or counselors no matter where they live in Northern Virginia.

Each locality has a 24-hour hotline, staffed by volunteers. Most volunteers have 24 to 30 hours of on-call duty each month, plus the hours they spend if selected as a companion for a specific case.

Program coordinators say the main ingredients for a successful companion or counselor are common sense and compassion. Specific knowledge and skills needed to function in the program are learned in training sessions, they say. Most programs accept men and women volunteers.

Training sessions start Saturday in Alexandria and March 6 in Arlington. Loudoun County trains victim counselors every month, and Fairfax offers classes three times a year. Prince William County is just organizing its first volunteer network for sexual assault victims.

Victims or prospective volunteers can obtain counseling or information from:

* Alexandria Rape Victim Companion Program. 24-hour number: 971-8208. Office: 838-4900.

* Arlington Rape and Domestic Violence Program. 24-hour number: 558-2048. Office: 558-2489.

* Fairfax County Victim Assistance Network. Also serves Falls Church and Fairfax City. 24-hour number: 360-7273. Office: 360-6910.

* Loudoun County Victim Witness Program. 24-hour number and office: 777-3399.

* Prince William County Mental Health Center. 24-hour number and office: 361-3101.