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Social Work students collect clothes for survivors of sexual assault

| Wednesday, January 14, 2015

The Belles of Saint Mary’s College are working together to ease the emotional burden that survivors of sexual assault experience by collecting clothes for them through the organization Belle’s Closet.

Belle’s Closet was created in Fall 2014 by Brandyn Blosser, Saint Mary’s College social work professor and 2003 alumna, to provide clothes to sexual assault survivors whose clothes were collected as a part of hospital exams. The donations provide the survivor an alternative to clothing from the lost and found or paper scrubs.

“Many survivors share they feel ‘dirty’ after a rape and have no desire for additional attention,” Blosser said. “Wearing paper scrubs will definitely cause people to stare and not knowing if the donated clothing you are putting on is clean can cause even more anguish for a survivor.”

Blosser said that the idea for this project came to her when she witnessed a hospital employee offering to buy clothes for a rape survivor.

“My hope is survivors will know they are not alone and our community cares,” Blosser said. “A pair of new sweat pants may not seem significant to some. However, when every choice has been taken from you and you have been violated in the worst imaginable sense, new sweatpants and t-shirt are a start to feeling clean again.”

Belle’s Closet not only meets community members’ needs but creates an opportunity for students in Blosser’s course Sexuality, Intimacy, and Relationships (SW341) to engage, the social work professor said. Blosser said that the organization requires students to be a part of project development and exposes them to different kinds of relationships, she said.

“They receive an in depth presentation from the Special Victim’s Unit related to rape, sexual assault and domestic violence that will only help assist them to be stronger professionals when in each student’s prospective career,” said Blosser.

The students involved in Belle’s Closet deliver donations of new clothing articles such as sweatpants or sweatshirts to the St. Joseph Regional Medical Center to subsequently be distributed to survivors in need. Senior Morgan Carroll took Blosser’s class last fall and said those involved in Belle’s Closet plan to reach out to larger companies for donations and holding community-wide clothing drives to help re-clothe survivors everywhere.

“Providing new clothing to victims of sexual assault signifies a fresh start and gives them hope for the future,” Carroll said. “At a time when they may feel helpless and robbed of their dignity, we want to show them that they are still being cared for, that they really do matter.”

Saint Mary’s senior Elizabeth Maloney said when Blosser presented the idea of Belle’s Closet to the class that her classmates were interested in right away and looked forward to getting involved.

“The project means a great deal,” Maloney said. “You know, you hear of a sexual assault and you keep parroting on to others that one shouldn’t attack another person, or rape another person, but that doesn’t help the current situation, that may only influence the future. With Belle’s Closet, my classmates and I are actively helping the current victims.

“I’m glad to be working behind the scenes to end a great social injustice.”

Blosser said that she hopes to ignite students into action — especially when it involves a horrible situation such as sexual assault or rape.

“Each of us can choose to accept the uncomfortable and gut wrenching realities of the world by saying there is nothing to be done or we can choose to fight for positive change by doing something regardless of how small,” said Blosser.

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