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Grateful Garment Project Pursues a Noble Mission

PNR members learned at their Sept. 16th how The Grateful Garment Project adds a modicum of dignity to the physical and emotional ordeal that sexual assault victims endure during the invasive medical exams for gathering evidence to bring their assailants to justice.

Grateful Garment Executive Director Lisa J. Blanchard described how she founded the San Jose-based non-profit organization after learning about one of the terrible truths of this process. After the typical 3-1/2 hour exam, the traumatized victim must also surrender her clothes to serve as evidence. Adding insult to her injuries, she is often provided a paper gown to wear for the uncomfortable trip home from her hospital experience.

Now available in 52 of California’s 58 counties and 115 agencies, The Grateful Garment Project provides new clothing, toiletries, snacks, and miscellaneous items to begin the healing process, Blanchard said. The program started with “Resource Closets,” adjacent to examination rooms or in duffle bags carried by volunteers to provide quick access to appropriately sized sweatshirts, t-shirts, pants, underwear, socks, and slippers for women, men, and children.

It has since expanded to five additional core programs:

· BEYOND-THE-CLOSET. (Human Trafficking/Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children [CSEC] Resources). Providing clothing, toiletries, and other supplies to safe houses, shelters, and group homes.

· PACK IT FORWARD. Emergency portable packs were distributed to law enforcement and sexual violence service providers for human trafficking and CSEC victims.

· OPERATION ESTEEM. Gift cards to encourage young victims of sexual assault to seek follow-up medical and/or counseling services.

· DRESS FOR DIGNITY. Gift cards to enable low-income sexual assault survivors to buy clothes appropriate for court appearances.

· BEAUTIFICATION PROJECTS. Transforming the typically spartan clinical facilities where sexual assault forensic exams are performed into settings more conducive to healing.

Blanchard stressed the services provided by The Grateful Garment Project are essential for Alameda County, a known international center for human trafficking.

“Our goal is to be everywhere we are needed,” Blanchard said.

The PNR Foundation recognized the importance of The Grateful Garment Project with a $5000 grant and announced the foundation’s October meeting.

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