CLEVELAND — Sexual violence. The words are ugly, the acts are even uglier.
Most often, victims and survivors of sexual assault will have to go to the hospital for an exam. During that examination, every piece of clothing they’re wearing will be taken in for evidence.
That's why the “Threads of Love & Comfort” project works to provide those survivors with every single thing they may need in their worst time.
The group is made up of women from the National Council of Jewish Women in Cleveland. TLC was founded by Cyndy Fellenbaum and Wendy Forman after they worked closely with sexual assault nurse examiners.
The “survivor kits” are filled with soft brushes, sweatpants, underwear, flip flops, toiletries, and handmade blankets — anything cozy.
“What we give them are things that are soft, because their body has been battered during the assault,” Fellenbaum explained. “Nothing is going to take away the trauma of the assault, but it just wraps them up in softness.”
They have donated more than 300 kits to MetroHealth Medical Center. Since it was so successful there, they have recently expanded to focus on Rainbow Babies and Children’s Hospital.
Sometimes, they said, it breaks their heart to have to go as low as 4T in underwear sizes for children.
“Everybody that’s involved in this project is doing from their heart because we care about the victims and because we want to do something,” Forman said. “And sometimes you feel so helpless you can’t make a difference, but I feel like we are, in a small way.”
Sexual assault nurse examiner (SANE) program coordinator Kathleen Hackett has seen the difference firsthand.
“The blankets might be something small in the whole scheme of the process but I will tell you, looking at a child, be able to wrap up in a blanket when they tell that story, is so comforting for them,” Hackett said.
She said they treat about 150 children for sexual assault every year — children under the age of 18, sometimes just months old.
“I’ll tell you another thing. Children, in my experience, they don’t remember anything I said. Most times I don’t expect them to remember what i said,” Hackett explained. “But what they remember is how we made them feel and these blankets made them feel comforted, they made them feel safe.”
The TLC project and National Council of Jewish women are always looking for volunteers to help put together survivor kits and make blankets. For more information, click here.