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Assistance League provides Assault Survivor Kits to medical facilities
When a sexual assault victim enters an emergency room, they are often asked to relinquish their clothes for evidence.
But if their only option is to go home in a hospital gown, they may be reluctant to go through with an examination.
“It’s demeaning and humiliating,” said Assistance League of the Eastside President Jackie Devich. “It’s a pretty in-depth and intense process.”
In addition to collecting forensic evidence for the investigation, a post-assault examination can include interviewing the survivor, educating them about sexually transmitted diseases and creating a safety plan.
To help restore some dignity in women who have been sexually assaulted, the Redmond-based Assistance League provides Assault Survivor Kits to more than 30 medical facilities throughout the state.
The kits’ contents have morphed since the program began in 1992, but now each kit contains a pair of sweatpants, a sweatshirt, underwear, socks and assorted toiletries such as a toothbrush and toothpaste, soap and shampoo. There is also a small message from Assistance League. All of this is folded and arranged to fit into a one-gallon Ziplock bag and tied with a bow.
Although Assistance League rarely hears from kit recipients, Devich said they have heard from a couple — usually in the form of an anonymous card or letter.
In one case, Devich said a survivor told them, “That was such a relief to not have to worry about clean underwear and pants. You really gave me a piece of my dignity back. That night was horrible and I felt so hopeless watching them bag up my clothes. Please don’t ever think that your work goes unnoticed or unappreciated. You helped make what was one of my worst nights ever, into something a little bit more endurable. Again, thank you very much.”
Devich said there was one case where they were in a store for an event related to a different Assistance League event when a woman in the store approached them and thanked them as she had once received an Assault Survivor Kit.
But these instances are rare and more often, Assistance League hears from emergency room nurses who conduct examinations of sexual assault survivors. Devich said the response has been very positive. League members have been told that the nurses’ jobs would be nearly impossible to do without the kits and many times, a survivor will go to the hospital by themselves without any support and the kits help make things more comfortable.
Devich said one nurse told them, “’Your kits are so helpful in restoring dignity! Thank you for providing clothing. Without (the kits) our client’s traumatic experience could be extended.’”
“It’s a really gratifying program for our members, too,” Devich said, adding that they wished the kits weren’t necessary but are glad to help.
The clothes and underwear in the Assault Survivor Kits come in various sizes from small to extra large and Devich said league members purchase their items from various stores, depending on where the deals are.
“They’re bargain shoppers extraordinaire,” she said.
Because the kits’ contents are very specific and need to stay consistent, Devich said the best way for people to help is through financial support and gift cards. However, they also welcome books and toys as Assistance League now puts together kits for juvenile sexual assault survivors.
Another way to help is with assembling the kits. Devich said they have had companies whose employees get together with Assistance League to help put together kits.