Hospital asking for donations to help sexual assault victims

EAU CLAIRE, Wis. (WEAU) -- Nearly 1 in 3 women and 1 in 4 men will experience sexual violence at some point during their life time according to the CDC. But there is a simple way you can help local sexual assault victims as they are on their road to recovery.

It might not be something you typically think of, but after sexual assault, many victims have to turn over everything, even the clothes on their back, over to authorities as evidence. A local hospital is asking for some clothing donations to help out victims during a vulnerable time.

Nurse Dianne Whitehouse, along with her team at H.S.H.S Sacred Heart complete around 30-100 sexual assault exams a year. "It's just a very emotional and invasive procedure,” said Dianne Whitehouse, a sexual assault examiner.

Often times the victim will come to the emergency room with police or members from the crisis response team of Eau Claire County. "It's more frequent then what people think, it is very often that victims end up at the hospital getting a SANE exam,” said Jessica Bryan, the victim witness coordinator supervisor in Eau Claire County. “They are given a head to toe medical screening exam and then once they are medically stable, then we do evidence collection,” Whitehouse said.

The entire exam can take anywhere from 3-5 hours to complete. "Any kind of fluids that they can pick up, any kind of DNA but also making sure that the victim is safe and healthy as well,” Bryan said. Then their clothes are turned over to law enforcement as evidence. "We don't always have clothes to send them home with, sometimes they will leave in paper scrubs and that's kind of injury on top of the assault,” Whitehouse said.

The hospital is asking for donations of new sweatpants, t-shirts, underwear and bras for the victims to wear when they head home. "It's important for people to leave in comfortable clothes because we have taken so much from them,” Whitehouse said.

Those steps out of the emergency room are just the beginning on a long road to recovery. "It can be frustrating at times because sometimes what the victim is looking for through the justice system, they may not always get so explaining to them what the process is, the outcome is not a guaranteed outcome but we can prepare them,” Bryan said.

And the first step in the process, feeling some sense of normalcy. "If you think about having such a traumatic event happen to you and you just want to have something warm and comfortable to kind of curl up on the couch and process what has happened."

H.S.H.S Sacred Heart says they give sexual assault exams to women, men and children of all ages so they are looking for clothes in any sizes. If you want to donate just bring new clothes including sweatpants, t-shirts, underwear, sport bras and socks, you can drop them off at the emergency room at Sacred Heart.