Emergency room nurse Martha Phillips has seen things none of us want to see and heard stories none of us want to hear.
She's watched women brought into the ER after their bodes have been violated, their bodily autonomy stolen from them, their sense of safety and dignity in tatters. She's witnessed the fear and shame of sexual assault survivors as they've had their bodies further prodded and swiped for investigative purposes, and seen them leave the hospital without their bras and panties, having had them taken for evidence—an insult added to the injury they've already endured.
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That's why Phillips shared a post of Facebook pleading with people to consider donating underwear and bras to their local hospitals or violence shelters. Her post, which includes a photo of Fruit of the Loom bras and panties she and her coworkers purchased so that women who have been raped can leave the hospital in clean underwear, has been shared more than 100,000 times.
"This is the underwear that no woman wants to wear.
And it's not just because it's a plain cotton sports bra the color of Pepto-Bismol.
It's because this is the underwear we give to survivors of rape and sexual assault after we take their own underwear as evidence.
We take their nice underwear, their favorite underwear, their cute underwear, their comfy underwear, their best-fitting bra, their 75-dollar designer bra, their weekend bra, their work bra. And we take it away from them while wearing gloves, and drop it into a paper bag, and seal it with evidence tape and write their police case number on the outside, and send it to the state crime lab, and they never see it again.
And we give them some Fruit from the Loom to wear home, back to a life and a world they no longer recognize and no longer trust.
But here's the kicker: That boring sports bra is WAY way WAY better than what some survivors get when they're discharged.
Some women have ALL of their clothes taken for evidence. Shirt. Undershirt. Pants. Bra. Underwear. Even their socks. And if the local forensic/sexual assault program that cares for them doesn't have -- or won't buy -- or can't buy -- clothes for them, they get discharged in hospital scrubs.
And grippy hospital socks.
And postpartum white-mesh hospital underwear.
And no bra.
Ever seen a woman who's just been raped, just had a three-hour forensic exam, just had every surface of her battered body swabbed and photographed and inventoried for the police, ever seen her walk out of a hospital wearing oversized hospital scrubs --
---and her arms wrapped tightly around her chest, ashamed, because she doesn't have a bra to wear?
And I absolutely refuse to ever see it again.
This is $150 of underwear from Kohl's. My team and I buy this underwear ourselves for our patients, because we are no longer willing to let any of our survivors go home without a bra, or without a decent pair of underwear.
If you are looking for a place to donate something meaningful this holiday season, reach out to your local Forensic Nursing team, rape crisis center, or domestic violence shelter.
Go to Wal-Mart, or Kohl's, or Target, and buy clothes you'd feel comfortable in curled up, safe at home, watching TV. And donate them.
New underwear, a comfortable bra, a comfortable pair of pants, a soft hoody, squishy socks -- all of these things can help make a woman who has survived a violent rape feel like a person again.
Not a victim.
Because it's a long walk down that hallway, out of the hospital, and back into the world.
At least she can be comfortable as she takes each step."
It's a reality none of us want to think about, but a reality nonetheless. Phillips suggested that those who want to make a donation check https://centers.rainn.org/ to find local organizations that provide support for sexual assault survivors.
No survivor should have to walk away from a rape exam feeling exposed and embarrassed. If basic underwear can give a woman even a small shred of dignity after sexual assault, that's definitely worth a few extra dollars at the department store.