It may be difficult for someone to console a sexual assault victim, but one organization is hoping to let them know someone cares.
Project Beloved, a nonprofit organization that strives to educate, advocate and collaborate to change the conversation about sexual assault and empower survivors to find their voices, on Tuesday donated 50 Beloved Bundles to Inova’s Forensic Assessment and Consultation Teams Department in Leesburg.
The bundles include clothing, toiletries, a journal and stress ball and other items for the hospital to give sexual assault victims when they are sent home after their forensic exams. “Survivors can leave the hospital with dignity and know that someone cares,” according to the nonprofit’s website.
Cindy DeFrancesca, the child life specialist for Inova’s FACT Department, said the donation was “really nice because it brings everything together.” Previously, the department was depending on donations from a “hodgepodge” of different organizations. She said that the center saw 63 percent of all the county’s sexual assault victims from January to May this year and that, while no one wants to see the bundles deplete, they could be gone in as soon as three months.
According to the FACT Department, which has operated an office at the Inova Fairfax Hospital since 1990 and opened its Loudoun office in April 2018, adult sexual assault exams increased by 218 percent from 2014 to 2016, while pediatric exams increased by 121 percent.
DeFrancesca said Inova’s Loudoun FACT office served 950 sexual assault victims last year and 121 this May, which turned out to be a new monthly high for the department.
“It was a lot,” she said. “These crimes sadly are always happening.”
Sexual assault victims entering Inova’s FACT Department face no fees; all exams and treatment are paid for either by the Virginia Victims Fund or the Virginia Supreme Court.
“That’s really important to us,” said FACT Director Mary Hale. “The last thing [victims] need to be worried about is what are [their] deductibles.”
This is the first round of bundles Project Beloved has delivered in Virginia. Already, it’s donated them to sexual abuse centers in Texas Florida and North Carolina.
Tracy Matheson started Project Beloved in 2017 following the April 17 rape and murder of her 22-year-old daughter, Molly Jane, who was born in Fairfax. In addition to donating Beloved Bundles to sexual assault centers, the nonprofit also partners with agencies to install soft interview rooms for sexual assault victims to feel comfortable in when talking about their experiences and offers scholarships to students planning to study social work in college.
Lisa Rueda, a volunteer with Project Beloved, said that Matheson would like to donate Beloved Bundles to even more sexual assault centers across the nation. “I believe she wants it everywhere,” she said.