Campus organization provides donations, support to hospitalized rape victims

Jenan Taha

A newly formed student group on campus helps comfort sexual assault survivors by sending them donations and kits filled with clothing items, toiletries and notes of support while they’re in the hospital.

Strengthening Sleeping Beauty was created last semester by two UT students, who said the goal of the organization is to provide survivors with clothing and other necessities through donation drives.

“A lot of times, when people go to the hospital to be medically treated for rape or sexual assault, all their possessions are taken, even their clothes,” said co-founder Emma Robertson, a sociocultural anthropology and Mandarin sophomore. 

The organization had its first donation drop-off in late March at the Eloise House and SafePlace, shelters that offer survivors resources such as forensic exams and housing.

“I’ve had (a) past with sexual assault, and so it was just really heavy on my heart to help the campus and the community of Austin in a way that supports survivors,” Robertson said. “Because of our partnership, Eloise House is able to take the cost of clothing out of their budget and focus on staffing their clinic with qualified nurses and cultivating a comforting environment for them to begin the process of healing.”

Unlike other campus groups that also educate students about sexual violence, Strengthening Sleeping Beauty focuses all of its efforts on the aftermath of a sexual assault rather than prevention.

“As much as we preach consent and prevention, it’s still going to happen,” Robertson said. “We need to make sure that there’s people intervening and also need to take care of these people.”

The organization was inspired by a similar group in California, and advertised their donation drives through Facebook, the co-founders said.

“We were just so excited that so many people within a few minutes were just as excited about making this impact as we were,” said co-founder Abigail Wiedenhoefer, international relations and global studies sophomore.

Strengthening Sleeping Beauty is currently working on reaching more students and hospitals, as well as spreading awareness about sexual violence and how to treat survivors.

“Everyone including us needs to be educated about how to help these survivors as best as possible,” Robertson said.

Ami Artiz, Middle Eastern studies sophomore and member of the group, said the kits let survivors know that there are people who care for them.

“The kits are a symbol that rape is not your fault,” Artiz said. “You shouldn’t feel broken or alone when going through a recovery process.”

Artiz said she has experienced sexual assault before and wants to help others going through similar hardships. Artiz said she is concerned about the prevalence of sexual assault on campus.

“I’m sick of it. We all should be. It’s unacceptable,” Artiz said. “I think I have an obligation to help other women and men.” 

The group has partnered with Minority Women Pursuing Law and Texas Lassos to get more students involved and plans to continue gathering donations for their upcoming drop-off event this May.

Correction: Strengthening Sleeping Beauty is not the only group that works with sexual assault survivors. Voices Against Violence and other campus groups also focus on the aftermath of an assault, as well as the prevention. The Texan regrets this error.