THE HANDBAG PROJECT
Durbanite Jes Foord became a heroine to many South Africans when she showed courage and selflessness by establishing The Jes Foord Foundation (JFF), following her traumatic rape by four men in 2008.
One of her initiatives is the Handbag Project. New or used handbags are donated, containing items that can assist a rape victim during the initial reporting process at the police station. These are items such as a facecloth, soap, deodorant spray and new underwear, etc. Typically, any item of clothing with forensic evidence on it must be taken from the rape victim at a time when she or he already feels so vulnerable. She or he must then undergo a physical examination before being allowed to shower. A handbag with these ‘comfort’ items in it can go a long way in helping the victim feel a little better. The most important item in the bag however, is a letter with a few words of encouragement to restore some hope to the victim during this traumatic time. Jes said it can be a few words or an essay but ideally something from your heart to theirs. For example:
“No matter what has happened you are special, and please don’t let anyone take that away from you. You can, and will, get through this. There are so many people who really care and will help you gain your strength. This gift is given to you with love from Louise”.
When you are at your lowest, just receiving the bag with all the goodies, a simple gift that can give you hope which is a fundamental step in recovery.
The latest statistics for 2016/2017 confirm that in South Africa 41 503 adults and 15 790 children reported their sexual assault cases. This means a sexual assault, regardless of gender, is reported to occur every NINE minutes – and these are only the ones we know of and are actually reported. This stirred the foundation to intensified action and we aimed at packing and delivering 2 628 handbags (comfort bags and kiddi packs) over 16 days during 16 days of Activism in 2016. Because of the awesome support from everyone in South Africa, we managed to do it.
This year we have set our target to exceed packing and delivering over 5 000 rape comfort bags, and Jes is therefore appealing for good condition handbags (bags you no longer use or one you may have received as a gift but will never use.) Not only ladies handbags, but children’s and men’s backpacks are also needed, as it is not only women who are raped. Each handbag received will be packed with the items on the list below. It would of course be greatly appreciated if you could hand in the bag including a few rape comfort items, but an empty handbag is of great help as well. Should you wish to donate a bulk of certain items and not individual bags, you are also most welcome to do so.
For children we pack a Kiddi pack, which is sadly in high demand. We have listed the items below for your reference. JFF’s cost to pack these bags amounts to R170 per handbag – so individuals and companies are also welcome to donate a monetary amount so we can purchase the bags and items ourselves.
RAPE COMFORT BAGS