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 things such as a facecloth, soap, deodorant spray, new underwear, etc. Typically, any item of clothing with forensic evidence on it must be taken from the rape victim, at a time she already feels so vulnerable. She then must undergo physical examination before being allowed to shower. A handbag with ‘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 something from your heart to theirs i.e.
“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 stats for 2014/2015 confirm that in South Africa 59 957 sexual assaults are reported in a year, which means a sexual assault (regardless of gender) is reported to occur every 9 minutes to someone – and these are the ones we know of and are actually reported. This stirred the foundation to intensified action – we aimed at packing and delivering 2 628 handbags (comfort bags and kiddi pack rape bags) over 16 days during 16 days of Activism in 2015 and because of the awesome support from everyone in South Africa we did it.
This year we have set our target to exceed packing and delivering over 4 000 rape comfort bags, Jes is therefore asking for good condition handbags i.e. one 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 that are raped. Each handbag received will be packed with the items on the list set out below. Obviously it would be greatly appreciated if you could hand in a bag with a few 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 most welcome to do so.
For children we pack a Kiddi pack, which is in high demand.
Please also refer to the lists below for the requirements for these two bags.
- Drawstring bag, minimum size 33cm x 43cm or small backpack.
- Panties/underpants (to replace soiled panties)
- Pack of small tissues.
- Soap and facecloth
- Sanitary pad (for vaginal and anal bleeding)
- Notebook (Art therapy, to assist in forensic evidence gathering)
- Ball point pen
- Colouring pencils/crayons
- Teddy or small soft toy – for child to keep and provide comfort
Rape Comfort Bags
- Face Cloth
- Panties (small, med or large)
- Sanitary Towels
- Bar of soap
- Body lotion (small)
- Tooth Paste
- Tooth Brush
- Small pack of tissues
- Note – words of comfort/care
- Handbag – to place the above items in.
*No used items please
Click here to learn more about The Handbag Project.