Wednesday, May 4, 2016
Somewhere between 800 and 1,000 child abuse survivors are treated by VCU Health personnel every year, according to Robin Foster, M.D., a physician in VCU’s Department of Emergency Medicine and chair of the Division of Pediatric Emergency Medicine. That’s two to three children per day. Some of those kids have suffered sexual abuse.
For children who are survivors of sexual abuse, the experience of a Physical Evidence Recovery Kit can leave them feeling even more vulnerable following an assault. In an effort to preserve evidence to identify a perpetrator, their clothes may be taken and they must undergo a full physical examination.
At VCU Health, many of these young survivors also receive another type of kit, one meant to bring a degree of comfort in a time of fear and uncertainty. On April 28, more than 100 volunteers packed 250 boxes for children and adults who face the experience of a sexual assault. The volunteers wrote notes to survivors and included a small, stuffed bear in each box — a staple comfort item included in the kits.
Fear 2 Freedom kits are given to both child and adult survivors of sexual assault after they have endured the Physical Evidence Recovery Kit process. With notes of support, new clothes, a journal and toiletries in each one, the kits provide both needed items and an emotional boost during a dark time.
Fear 2 Freedom is an international nonprofit that coordinates events to help those wounded by sexual assault and to bring survivors hope and healing. It partners hospitals and community organizations with universities to provide kits to survivors of sexual assault, domestic violence, sex trafficking and child abuse. Worldwide, the organization has provided more than 12,000 kits to survivors.
They will receive [the kits] in the moment of their greatest trauma.
The event was the first of its kind on the MCV Campus. In past years, Fear 2 Freedom has organized annual events on VCU’s Monroe Park Campus. Once all of the kits were assembled, volunteers held a moment of silence and loaded boxes into an ambulance for transport. VCU Police officers, Richmond Ambulance Authority staff and others delivered the kits to VCU Medical Center’s Emergency Department.
Bree Bever, the organization’s director of events, stressed the importance of the volunteers’ work and how it would directly affect survivors coming to VCU for treatment.
“They will receive [the kits] in the moment of their greatest trauma,” Bever said.
The assembled kits will go to survivors seeking medical care at VCU Medical Center and human trafficking victims at The Gray Haven. VCU students, faculty and staff members, as well as survivor advocates from Fort Lee, a United States Army post in Prince George County, Virginia, served as volunteers.
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