The Grateful Garment Project Clothes Victims Of Sex Crimes

By Lisa M. Krieger
San Jose Mercury News.

SAN JOSE

After a rape, victims often lose their innocence and perhaps their faith. Then they lose their clothing. Perhaps torn and bloody, defiled and loaded with DNA, the clothes are needed by authorities as evidence.

The Grateful Garment Project gives victims back an outfit — and with it, some dignity.

“People were going home in disposable hospital gowns,” said Lisa Blanchard, the project’s founder and director. “It’s humiliating. Horrific.”

Her small 4-year-old organization, run out of a modest San Jose office, has donated nearly 20,000 items of clothing — brand-new, fresh and clean, in sizes ranging from 3T to 3X — to victims of sex crimes in 25 California counties.

But the group needs more. There are people and places it hasn’t yet reached. And it’s trying to provide more nonclothing items, such as toothbrushes, flip-flops, protein bars and tote bags to carry post-assault medications.

A donated DVD player, for instance, will help distract a child undergoing an hourslong medical exam, Blanchard said. Donated books, such as “Runaway Girl: Escaping Life on the Streets” or “Girls Like Us,” can help with healing.

Blanchard also hopes to decorate the often-gritty offices of county Sexual Assault Response Teams, typically located in neglected corners of hospitals or sheriff’s departments. The waiting room in San Gabriel in Los Angeles County, for example, has only spartan redwood benches for seating. Another room, made of cinder block, has only plastic lawn chairs.

The project also needs volunteers to count, fold and help distribute clothing, as well as perform other odd jobs.

A brand-new outfit can be purchased with a $50 donation. Twice that amount — $100 — can fill a backpack with personal care items, clothing and basic food for a child who has been rescued from prostitution or a woman saved from human trafficking.

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