Durbanite Jessica 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.
Jes put out a plea this year asking women to donate good condition handbags i.e. bags which are no longer used or which have been received as a gift but will never be used. Each handbag received is packed with the items on the list below, or in some cases, ladies actually fill up their bags with the listed items before dropping them off.
In the Gauteng Region, the bags are collected by The EPIC Foundation run by, Alta McMaster (cell: 082 940 6230 ) and delivered to Rape Crisis Centres and Victim Empowerment Centres (VEC) who deal with the police stations. The handbags are not given directly to the police stations to keep. The handbags are monitored very carefully (i.e. they are numbered and a register kept). In the Durban area, the bags are collected by The Jes Foord Foundation and in the Cape Town area, contact email@example.com and she will advise you where to drop off your handbag.
ITEMS NEEDED FOR TO FILL EACH HANDBAG FOR THE HANDBAG PROJECT
- Face Cloth
- Panties (med or large)-no g-strings
- Sanitary Towels
- Tooth Paste
- Tooth Brush
- Body lotion (small)
- Bubble Bath (small or decanted)
- Comb or brush
- Hair clips/Bands
- Small soft toy
- Note – words of comfort/care
- Bag – to place the above items in