The University of Connecticut’s Violence Against Women Prevention Program (VAWPP) is hosting a clothing drive titled “Sweats for Survivors” for victims of a sexual assault ending Friday, Mar. 2.
Program organizer Kristina Drollinger said the donations will be given to the Sexual Assault Crisis Center of Eastern Connecticut (SACCEC). The donations are for victims undergoing a forensic exam, as clothing is often taken as a part of evidence collection kits, leaving the survivors without clothes.
Donation bins are placed in seven different residents halls on campus, as well as the Women’s Center in the Student Union and The Oaks apartment complex in Storrs Center, according to the event’s Facebook page.
VAWPP also is seeking donations of slacks, gently used sweatpants, sweatshirts and warm socks for survivors. Bins can be found in North Campus, Alumni, East Campus, the Pi Beta Phi house in Husky Village, McMahon, NextGen and Garrigus.
Drollinger said these donations will provide comfort to victims of any gender following an invasive and potentially retraumatizing exam. Since some survivors may not feel comfortable contacting friends or relatives asking them to bring clothing, the drive will spare the survivors this potentially uncomfortable task.
Drollinger explained the project’s relevance, particularly to those on a college campus, as it affects women and the LGBTQ community. Drollinger hopes the drive will help students view the Women’s Center and VAWPP as resources for those who feel they were victims of gender-based crimes.
However, she wants to acknowledge the plight of those who do not seek a rape kit and examination. “I think it's important to acknowledge that not everyone who is impacted by sexual assault will decide to have a sexual assault forensic exam, and that's okay. We should respect the decisions of all victim-survivors,” Drollinger said.
“The rate of sexual assault on college campuses is staggering—it's a national problem that disproportionately affects women and LGBTQ+ folks,” Drollinger said. “VAWPP seeks to address and prevent all forms of gender-based violence (including sexual assault, intimate partner violence, stalking, etc.) through education, outreach and advocacy.”
One in five women will experience sexual assault during college, with their first and second semesters being the most vulnerable times, according to womenshealth.gov. Reports also show that women who identify as lesbian, bisexual or transgender are also much more likely to experience sexual assault during their college career.
“As a survivor of sexual assault, the subject of gender-based violence on college campuses is both very personal and important to me,” Drollinger said. “I hope that students can better understand why clothing is needed after sexual assault forensic exams and how necessary and comforting these donations can be.”
Drollinger wants the clothing drive to raise awareness of the problem of sexual assault to hopefully seek a solution and an end to sexual assault.
“I think it's really important that college students understand that we all play a role in preventing and ending sexual violence, and we have to examine the ways that we contribute to factors such as rape culture and sexism, which work to uphold this violence,” Drollinger said.
Abby Brone is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.