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Albany Med, UAlbany Volunteers Pack Survival Kits for Victims of Sexual Assault

ALBANY, N.Y. (April 13, 2016) – Sometimes the simplest gesture brings the greatest reward.
That was the hope of members of the Albany Med and UAlbany communities as they gathered to support victims of sexual assault.

Hundreds of volunteers joined together Tuesday evening at the SEFCU Arena for the second annual “We Care” event. Together, they packed and delivered "survival kits" to victims who have undergone forensic testing in the aftermath of sexual assault. Some 250 kits were delivered to Albany Medical Center for use in treating victims, transported by UAlbany's student-run ambulance service Five Quad and Albany County EMS, of the Office of the Sheriff.

“Tonight we have gathered as a community to call attention to the impact of sexual assault, and to educate our community on how together, we can support those who have been affected by sexual violence," said Chame Blackburn, M.D., emergency physician at Albany Med and director of Albany Med’s Sexual Assault Forensic Examiners Program. "On behalf of Albany Medical Center and the nearly 150 sexual assault patients we treat each year, I commend the University at Albany and our community supporters and sponsors for their assistance in this very important effort to provide simple measures of comfort that will help put victims of sexual assault on track for healing and strength."

The "We Care" project kits contained items such as clothing, toiletries, a hairbrush, gift cards, journal, and a personal note from the packer. Victims, said “We Care” organizers, find comfort in the kit's familiar items and gain a sense of taking back control of their lives, as clothing and personal items are often left behind for testing.

“Advocacy Center clients have commented to me on how comforting it was to receive a package from the nurse following a forensic rape exam,” said Carol Stenger, director, UAlbany Advocacy Center for Sexual Violence. “It gave them an opportunity to clean up, brush their teeth and put on clean, fresh clothes. They remarked that the supportive note in the bag meant a great deal and reminded them that there are good people in the world.”

According to the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network, every 107 seconds an American is sexually assaulted, and 293,000 people in the U.S. are sexually assaulted every year. Albany Medical Center treated 136 cases of sexual assault in 2015. The hospital's emergency department is staffed 24/7 by SAFE examiners who are specially trained to treat sexual assault victims and collect evidence that can aid in conviction, work which is supported by equipment purchased through a grant from the federal Department of Criminal Justice.

The We Care project, planned during April to heighten awareness of Sexual Assault Awareness Month, was supported by the Albany County District Attorney’s Office, Albany County Sheriff’s Office, CVS, Dunkin Donuts, Five Quad Ambulance, Mohawk Ambulance, Morgan Linens, Rite Aid, Subway, Walmart, and WB Mason.

"The University is proud to host this event in collaboration with Albany Medical Center and so many community partners," said Chantelle Cleary, UAlbany's Title IX coordinator. “It is our hope that the participation of our students and staff in this event will bring some measure of healing to survivors of sexual violence in the wake of victimization.”

The "We Care" survival kit event received extensive media coverage in the Capital Region from Channel 10 WTEN, "UAlbany students put together ‘survival kits’ for sexual violence victims at Albany Med;" Channel 13 WNYT, "UAlbany Helps Sexual Assault Victims;" Time Warner Cable News, "Survival Kits' Offer Support for Victims of Sexual Assault;" and the Times Union, "SEEN: UAlbany We Care Event."

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