Sweatpants, hair brushes and slip-on flats are just a few of the items included in care packages assembled by VCU students and other volunteers on April 8 in the Commons Ballroom. The purpose of the packages: to raise awareness and offer comfort to victims of sexual assault.
This is the second time Fear 2 Freedom, a global nonprofit dedicated to emotional and medical care and healing of victims of sex violence, abuse and trafficking, and Where is The Line Fear 2 Freedom’s VCU chapter have staged the event at VCU. Last year, the groups assembled 200 packages. This year, students put together 400 packages for the VCU Medical Center.
Each package was specified by age and size, placed in a special gift box or backpack and brought to ambulances parked outside the Commons Building. After all 400 gift boxes and backpacks were placed in the ambulances, they made their way to the MCV campus.
Rosemary Trible, president and founder of Fear 2 Freedom, said the basic goal of the event is to provide some comfort to victims of abuse or sexual assault who end up at VCU Medical Center emergency rooms.
“The physical exam is sometimes two hours long, and for a child that has just been abused that is very difficult,” Trible said. “The child is not going to go home in paper scrubs, because often times (the parents) don’t realize that the clothes are kept for evidence. They will have these lovely things to wear.”
According to Megan Goss, president of Where is the Line, the other major objective of the event is to spread awareness of rape and sexual assault and help the victims at the VCU Medical Center ER on their road to recovery.
“Every two minutes, someone in the U.S. is raped or sexually assaulted,” Goss said. “We may not be able to show all the victims of the U.S. that we care for them but at least we can show the victims at MCV that there are people at VCU that care for them and are doing our small part to help them heal.”
Dr. Robin Foster, Medical Director of the VCU Health System’s Pediatrics ER said that there are at least 850 victims of rape or sexual assault that come to VCU Medical Center each year. According to Foster, the emotional impact of the gifts towards the patients is heartwarming and gives them hope for closure.
One special item included in the care packages is a plush toy bear called Freedom Bear. Freedom Bear comes with a bear-sized backpack which holds a special piece of paper. The forensic nurse examining the victim would ask the victim to write the name or draw anything that has hurt them or they are afraid of and place it in a special compartment in Freedom Bear’s heart.
Once the victim feels she has found closure or has overcome her fears she may take the piece of paper she hid in Freedom Bear’s heart and place it in a liquid. The paper, together with what the patient wrote on it, will disappear.
“It is a comfort, for the adults as well as the children,” Trible said. “It is a symbol that they do not have to stay stuck and as a victim. It also has a little Freedom Bear story book of one of my Christopher Newport University girls who was raped at age 7 and how her bear comforted her and allowed her to make the journey from fear to freedom.”
Reuban Rodriguez, the dean of student affairs and associate vice provost, attended the event and joined in packing and moving the gift boxes and book bags. According to Rodriguez, a student came into his office on the day of the event. She victim of a sexual assault herself and was holding a Freedom Bear from last year’s event.
“After the meeting I asked her if she was going to attend the event this evening. She asked what event and I told her the Fear 2 Freedom and Where is the Line gift packaging event,” Rodriguez said. “While still holding her Freedom Bear, she nearly fell from her chair from surprise.”