This Organization Is Helping Sexual Assault Survivors

August 25th 2016

Kyle Jaeger

It's not uncommon for sexual assault survivors to leave the hospital wearing only a gown after undergoing a forensic medical exam. Their clothes are often collected as evidence, and few hospitals keep a stock of extra clothing. The Grateful Garments Project is working to fix that problem.

grateful garment

The nonprofit organization is using donations to create "clothing closets" for Sexual Assault Response Teams (SART) and hospitals in California. These closets contain new t-shirts, sweatshirts, sweatpants, underwear, and sandals — in addition to toiletries and snacks — so that survivors have their essentials covered after seeking medical care. Grateful Garment founder Lisa Blanchard said the group is "in the business of dignity."

"The idea of sending someone home in paper scrubs or a hospital gown — it doesn’t feel protective," Blanchard told ATTN:. “We don’t want to send them home feeling unsheltered and unprotected.”

The trauma of sexual violence isn't limited to the attack itself. The process of reporting assaults, undergoing invasive forensic medical tests, and confronting social stigmas can also be psychologically traumatic, forcing victims to relive the experience over and over again, according to The Joyful Heart Foundation. Blanchard believes that providing survivors with a set of clothes can relieve some of the discomfort associated with rape kit testing.

"Most of the time a survivor’s clothing won’t be returned, because the lab will need to dissect it for evidence," Fusion reports. "Sometimes survivors lose an item of clothing with sentimental value, or if the survivor is from a low socioeconomic background, they may lose their only pair of jeans."

The Grateful Garment Project estimates that one set of items cost about $50, and the organization donated more than 14,000 items to SART facilities between 2013 and 2014 alone.

[h/t HuffingtonPost]

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