'We Care' Project At UAlbany Marks #SexualAssaultAwarenessMonth
Hundreds of volunteers gathered Monday evening in Albany to pack and deliver "survival kits" to victims who have undergone forensic testing in the aftermath of sexual assault.
The nation's largest anti-sexual violence organization, RAINN (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network), says someone in America is sexually assaulted every 98 seconds. Registered Nurse Kaylin Dawson coordinates Albany Medical Center’s Sexual Assault Forensic Examiners Program. "Our sexual assault forensic examiners treat nearly 200 survivors of sexual assault each year."
The University at Albany marked #SexualAssaultAwarenessMonth by hosting its third annual “We Care” event at SEFCU Arena. Organizers hoped that the participation of students and staff in assembling the kits would bring some measure of healing to survivors of sexual violence.
Dylan Pomerantz began experiencing sexual abuse when he was just 8 years old. "So much of abuse is about isolating the victim and making them feel more alone. But an event like 'We Care' in Albany, it kinda breaks the stigma and shows that survivors like me, we're not alone. We have an entire community behind us to support us. And as a survivor, I can't describe how heartwarming it was as an experience to see professionals, students and other volunteers alike come together to support us."
The volunteers put approximately 300 kits together, each one included clothing, toiletries, a hairbrush, gift cards, journal, and a personal note from the packer.
Carol Stenger, Director of the Advocacy Center for Sexual Violence at the University at Albany, says UAlbany is the only university in the state of New York to have a dedicated center that deals with providing confidential support and advocacy services to students affected by sexual violence. Victims often are asked to leave clothing and personal items behind for testing. "My office often brings students who request it to Albany Medical Center Emergency Room if they choose to have a rape exam, and I have seen firsthand the little bit of light this brings to someone's face when they are given one of these bags. It gives them a bit of comfort both physically and psychologically, knowing that they have clean new clothes to get into and knowing that there are good people out there who cared enough to do this."
Sexual Assault Forensic Examiners staff the E.R. 24/7. They are specially trained to treat sexual assault victims and collect evidence that can aid in conviction, work which is supported by equipment purchased through a grant from the federal Department of Criminal Justice.
After all the kits were prepared, the students formed a human chain in assembly line fashion, to move them into ambulances that delivered them to Albany Medical Center.