Shafer Center hosts underwear drive

The Shafer Center for Crisis Intervention announced that it is holding its first community underwear drive for survivors of sexual assault. The center emphasizes that new and clean undergarments are an “important first step in the healing process.”

When a survivor consents to a forensic evidence kit, otherwise known as a rape kit, their clothes become evidence. This leaves the survivor with no extra clean clothes to wear home.

“We accept donations throughout the year. We’ve recruited folks to donate clothes and underwear,” director of the Shafer Center Kim Newell said, “but we thought a drive would be a great way to get the community involved.”

Newell credits Shafer Center volunteer Lisa Pigg for thinking of the idea.

Pigg, a social work graduate student at Southern Miss, serves as the lead first responder for the Shafer Center and has volunteered with the Shafer Center since fall 2017. As a first responder, she meets survivors at the hospital after they experience a sexual assault.

“This leaves the survivor feeling very vulnerable,” Pigg said. “The social workers at the hospital give the survivors scrubs, but being able to leave with clean underwear can really make a difference. I think it gives the survivor a feeling of comfort.”

Head coordinator of the Title IX office at Southern Miss Rebecca Malley said the drive encourages conversations about sexual assault.

“What [the drive] can do is make students more aware of how traumatic sexual assault can be,” Malley said. “After undergoing a rape kit, you don’t even have a pair of underwear to put on.”

Despite the number of shares and interactions on Facebook, Newell said there was no increase in underwear donations. “We just announced it [the drive],” she said, certain that there will be more donations in the upcoming weeks.

The Shafer Center will continue the community drive until the end of April, which is recognized as Sexual Assault Awareness Month. The end of April does not signal the end of donations, however. The Shafer Center accepts clothes donations all year. Donations can be dropped off at both the Hattiesburg and Laurel Shafer Centers and the Hattiesburg Police Department. All sizes, adult and child, male and female, are accepted.

The Shafer Center for Crisis Intervention began as the Hattiesburg Rape Crisis Center in 1983. It is a nonprofit organization devoted to providing support for all survivors of sexual assault and individuals affected by suicide or homicide. All of the Shafer Center’s services, including support groups and retreats, are non-discriminatory and free of charge.

If you have survived sexual assault and wish to seek help, the Shafer Center’s crisis hotline and the Southern Miss Title IX office located in Cook Library room 129 are available resources.