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vbock

Trying to Help after the Rape Kit

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Hi, I am a newcomer to this board.  I am a secondary survivor who has chosen to deal with the situation by volunteering at our local sexual assault center.  We are in a largely rural area.

One of the things that concerned me when I started volunteering was the stocking of the "go" bag for medical advocates.  Our center maintains a closet from which we are asked to stock our bags with clothing for survivors who surrender their clothing for evidence.  We live in a climate which is very hot in summer and very cold in winter. 

I am concerned that it's hard to anticipate the needs of each survivor we encounter, particularly with regard to size, so I have, with the blessing of the executive director at the center, started an initiative to find out if we can have some storage space near or in the Emergency Department that we can keep stocked with clothing for our clients.

I was hoping that people here who have been through the experience of being clothed at the ED might weigh in with what worked or did not work and what they wish they had been outfitted with.

Currently, our go bags are stocked with sweat shirts and sweat pants in size extra large.  My thinking is that underwear - panties and sports bras would add dignity and comfort.  Seasonally, a t-shirt so that the sweatshirt could be removed when they leave the icy ED for the warm outdoors would seem helpful, and socks in winter.  A variety of sizes would be good too -- children and larger people shouldn't have to feel crappy about what they are wearing as part of one of the most challenging experiences in their life.  Do people surrender their shoes? Should we be providing flip-flops?

We have a limited budget, of course, and we anticipate that nothing we provide will EVER be worn again, since few people would want to keep this clothing and the memory it represents and will likely discard it as soon as they have access to their own wardrobe again.  So I'm looking for an economical way to provide some dignity and comfort for a short time.

Obviously, I'm operating in a state of ignorance, here, and while I am sure staff at the center will be able to add insight, I'm really interested in feedback from people who have been through this. Can you help?  What sort of clothing did you/would you have wanted to be issued?

Valerie

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Hi Valerie,

Welcome to AS! As a survivor, I want to thank you for all you do! Not only are you trying to help survivors after being traumatized, you are doing your best to find ways to help survivors keep some sense of dignity in the aftermath of their experiences, which can be very difficult to do. So many thanks on behalf of the survivors you have helped.

Altho I never received helped from a SA center like yours, I appreciate your efforts on trying to find the right clothing and sizes for everyone. It is very true that survivors come in all shapes and sizes, and the one thing I know would be right is most would like comfortable and not tight-fitting clothing. We are at our most uncomfortable and any little bit of comfort does help. In this instance, I think of both mentally comfortable and possibly physically comfortable.  I'm unsure about the shoes, perhaps someone else who has been thru the process can help.

I do hope you get more responses, as I really think it is a great thing you are doing. Thanks for coming here and asking us and sharing your kindness with us.

Mary

:aswelcomesu:

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Posted (edited)

Hello and welcome @vbock to AS. As a survivor who has been through that process thank you for doing what you do it means so very much to us. It was a long time ago and not really even sure what they put me in besides grey sweat pants and a sweat shirt I can't recall footwear at all, nor do I recall what I did with that stuff. In my experience I was mentally not functioning well so the ED and the rape kit and all that stuff is very hazy to me still 12 years later. I wasn't as appreciative about the help I recieved till a few years ago, when I realized just how well I was taken care of even though I was in a strange place and extremely uncomfortable.

Thank you for coming here and asking questions like these to better serve your community. While I agree underwear and a sport bra would add to dignity everyone has their own shape and size even flip flops would be difficult due to sizes. It makes all the difference in the world that you do your job.

Thanks again and welcome to AS.

Edited by Oneinamillion

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Hi, @vbock,

Welcome to AS!  And thank you for everything you do for the survivors who have been fortunate to cross paths with you.  You sound like an amazing person and you have likely made a huge impact on several.  I truly wish there were more individuals with such a caring heart.

I did not report my sexual assault, and so I never had a rape kit done.  I know that in hindsight I should have, but it's been over 20 years at this point and the 'woulda, coulda, shouldas' are pointless to ponder now.  I am, though, quick to suggest filing a report and having a kit done - while there never will be justice for me, it does me some good to see others have that chance.

Have you thought about hosting or putting together a clothing drive so that this could become more of a long-term benefit provided at hospitals and sexual assault centers following a rape kit/examination?  

You could put out a list of what's needed - sweat pants and shirts in all sizes for sure because they are both warm and comfortable, sports bras (since bra sizes vary too greatly and the sports bras come in S, M, L, XL, XXL, etc and will likely be the first thing discarded as that's usually just a temporary thing to put on), both men's and women's underwear in all sizes (those will likely be thrown away afterward, too), white cotton socks...(not the hospital slipper socks they distribute - those are horrid!)  T-shirts are also great to have for warmer days but I do feel a sweatshirt should be offered as well and the survivor should have a choice as to which one he/she wants to wear, if not both.  Hoodies are a nice thing to have too - the pockets in front provide a nice warm place to put anxious hands and the hood would serve a purpose whether it's rainy outside when they leave or they'd have the option of putting the hood up over their heads to add a sense of security.  Flip-flops are personally not comfortable for me but I can certainly see a need for shoes in some cases or some kind of footwear to go home in.  

I do feel that the clothes should be new/never worn before because having just gone through a violation against my body, I would personally NEED for these clothing items to be mine and ONLY mine - regardless of whether or not I discard them afterwards, anything I would wear following an assault would need to be in line with what I'm generally comfortable with.  Underwear is a must, I would need to feel 'covered.'  Absolutely no skirts or dresses as the 'openness' at the bottom is not something I am comfortable with at all.

You could provide an address for all clothing donations to be sent - perhaps other hospitals/rape centers will be inspired to do the same, making this a more widely successful movement.  You'd be surprised at the response, I'm thinking - you can only do so much on a limited budget and it is worth it to get more people involved with making the go-bags.

I think it's a great idea that you're here asking for input.  I am sure that many will provide some insight and that you will be successful in your ambitions.

Again, thank you for all you do!

Capulet

 

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I haven't read the replies yet but wanted to add my two cents. 

I would have greatly appreciated the chance to relinquish my clothing to go with the rape kit after my assault (I wanted as much evidence and documentation as possible). But from what I remember I was told the space for storing the kits was limited and they couldn't accept the clothes I had been wearing. (To be clear I don't believe there was any evidence on my clothes. I just would have felt better if I had given them everything to hold onto. Better to have it and not need it, than need it and not have it.) I did however give up my panties, and they went into the kit for evidence. In exchange they gave me disposable hospital underwear that was designed for one time use only. It was a one-size-fits-all type thing and was very baggy with stretchy elastic around the waist and legs that held them on. (It was a bit like a thin paper-ish diaper without padding) But I still felt better having something clean on that wasn't 'tainted'. Having just that tiny bit of dignity and being able to cover up after being so vulnerable, exposed and violated made me feel just a little bit more protected. Well, not "protected", but definitly like I could cover up my body that had been violated and have that tiny extra bit of opaque barrier/layer between my nude body and the rest of the world. .... .... thinking back... I remember how putting them on made my situation less surreal.... and how the rape hit home for me. ... But, even so, having something clean and not tainted by the rape was something I was grateful for. 

If I could have given up my clothes and worn something else provided to me, I think I would have rather had basic, non-descript, muted colored (greyish) sweats. Long pants, long sleeves, to cover my body even more. Something that allowed me to "hide" myself while having to interact with people. A perfect fit wouldn't matter to me. Just fitted enough to not be too restrictive(suffocating/choking/claustrophobic) and not so loose that I would feel like they were at risk of falling off and making me feel more vulnerable/exposed. Maybe some pants with a drawstring so I could adjust it as desired. 

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Thank you so much for the responses so far.  I'm hearing considerations I would not have known to think about.

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When I had my kit done 20 years ago it was two days afterwards so I wasn't wearing the exact clothing however I did bring both my bra & panties with me. These were put into the kit. As others have said before having clean, comfortable, non-sexy underwear would be a great thing. After undergoing all that's involved with the exam a survivor doesn't have the capacity to think much beyond just trying to get through each moment. The hoodie idea is a great thing too which can give a sense of being less visible. AND sunglasses! If you're in a hot weather environment I would guess that it's likely to be sunny a lot of the time? What better way to be able to shield any residual fear than being behind sunglasses. Finally, drawstrings would be helpful too for the pants so they can be adjusted accordingly. And as others have said - neutral colors and not super high quality as these will never be worn again. Ever.

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I would really like to help you. I had a horrific SANE/ER experience and I really want to help make things better for others. Please message me if you would like. 

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Thanks!

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