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SARC drive
Sexual Assault Prevention and Response victim advocates look through some of the recent donations to the Clothes for a Cause program happening now across base.From left are advocate Lisa Jimenez, SARC program representative Robyn Crowder, and advocates Vicki Harris and 2nd Lt. Cheryl Steiner. (Air Force photo by Margo Wright)
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Clothing drive aims to help assault victims

Posted 10/23/2009   Updated 10/23/2009 Email story   Print story

    


by Howdy Stout
Tinker Public Affairs


10/23/2009 - TINKER AIR FORCE BASE, Okla. -- October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month and the Family Advocacy Center and the SARC office are seeking new clothing donations for the victims of sexual assault.

The clothes collected by the Clothing for a Cause campaign will be donated to three local hospitals through the YWCA to replace clothes confiscated as potential evidence by law enforcement officials while victims undergo specialized medical examinations.

"We have three hospitals that do these exams," explains Michelle Loughlin, SARC coordinator. "But when a person arrives for an exam, law enforcement may need to take their clothes for evidence."

This is the second year of collecting clothes at Tinker, says Ms. Loughlin. The YWCA collects the clothing and distributes it to the three local hospitals that handle sexual assault examinations.

As the clothes are stored in a hospital, they must be new, she adds.

The participating hospitals -- Midwest City Regional Hospital, Southwest Medical Center and Baptist Integris -- rotate sexual assault examinations on a monthly basis and sexual assault victims, including those from Tinker, are referred to these hospitals.

Within an hour of being called, an advocate and specially-trained nurse attend the victim, who is offered counseling and treatment including, prophylaxis and other medication to prevent disease.

"All at no charge to the victim," Ms. Loughlin says.

However, the clothing worn by victims is often taken by law enforcement officers as potential evidence. Although necessary, Ms. Loughlin says the lack of clothing leaves victims feeling additionally vulnerable. To reduce the risk of secondary emotional trauma, the hospitals supply donated clothing to the victims.

"It's a very good program and they really, really appreciate it," Ms. Loughlin says.

More than $5,000 in clothes was collected last year and donated to local hospitals to replace clothes given to sexual assault victims.

"We hope to do better than that this year," Ms. Loughlin says.

Because the clothes are stored in a sterile hospital environment, they need to be new but not necessarily expensive. Especially needed are underwear items.

"What we're really looking for are comfortable clothes of various sizes," Ms. Loughlin says.

More than 300 exams were performed on sexual assault victims in the Oklahoma City metro area last year, Ms. Loughlin says. Most cases of sexual assault are the result of domestic violence, an area of particular concern in Oklahoma which ranks near the bottom in national statistics.Ms. Loughlin estimates there are already more than 50 cases of domestic homicide in the state, up from the more than 30 reported last year. However, she says, accurate statistics are hard to obtain.

"It's really hard to capture those numbers until several years after the event," she said. But the incidence of sexual assault in Oklahoma shows no signs of easing, she says, with victims last year including men and women, the young and the old.

"The youngest was 12 and the oldest was 89," Ms. Loughlin said.

Boxes for clothing donations are located around base. The campaign, which started Oct 1, will run through the end of the month. Extra clothing not used to replenish hospital supplies will be used to restock clothing at the YWCA's domestic violence shelter.

"This is something that everyone can participate in," Ms. Loughlin said.



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