The Handbag Project

I received this email from a friend this morning and I’m totally touched and inspired by this amazing cause but also saddened that there is such a need.


Jessica Ford is a young woman who was raped a couple of years ago whilst hiking with her dad –

Jessica is setting up trauma rooms at police stations where victims are taken & treated with dignity. She has started “The Handbag Project”.

Jes is asking for good condition handbags i.e. one you no longer use or one you may have received as a gift but will never use. Not only ladies handbags but children’s and men’s backpacks as it is not only women that are raped.

One of the things a rape survivor does not get told is that they have to leave their panties and whatever else they are wearing e.g. shorts, jeans, skirt etc with the District Surgeon.

Jes is collecting the bags and in each bag she will have put the following: (obviously it would be greatly appreciated if you could hand in a bag with a few items but, even an empty handbag is of great help and Jes will fill it)

Liquid soap (wash away the negativity)
Body cream
Sanitary pads
Face cloth
And a little gift e.g. when Mr Price has their sales, buy some earrings, a bracelet or whatever you feel would be a ‘light’ at this awful time.
Anything to make them feel special!

For children (they actually require two bags – a rape bag and a court bag – please refer to the website for more details):
Small teddy bear

BUT, THE MOST IMPORTANT FEATURE IN THIS HANDBAG IS: – Please would each of you write a note to the survivor. Jes said it can be a few words or an essay but something from your heart to theirs. For example, even if you write something like “No matter what has happened you are special, and please don’t let anyone take that away from you. You can, and will, get through this. There are so many people who really care and will help you gain your strength. This gift is given to you with love from Louise”. When you are at your lowest, just receiving the bag with all the goodies, a simple gift that can give you hope, and hope is a fundamental step in recovery.

Just so you are aware, Jes monitors the bags she hands to the police stations very carefully (i.e. they will be sealed in a plastic bag and numbered) and, as there have been incidents in the past where the bags have gone missing, a register will be kept. Approximately 10 bags will be given to each police station with the request that when they are down to their last two, to let Jes know so more will be supplied

What inspired me even more was that within an hour of forwarding on this message to my network of friends and clients, we’d received confirmation that a very large corporate had gotten wind of the email via a friend who runs an NGO – Whiskers & Snouts,  and they are coming on board, with a large company proposal. Which just goes so show, even just be bringing this cause to the attention of our friends, we can all touch the lives of the people around us, sometimes with some thing as insignificant as forwarding on a message.

My group of friends, The BB’s have also risen to the challenge, our next dinner is next Friday and we’re all working towards donating a bag or two or three!

I hope that you all will be as touched by this initiative as I was. I must confess to feeling utterly crushed when I read the requirements of the kids rape kit.

I hope that you too will be inspired by this initiative and perhaps find away to be involved too!

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  • Reply Mash

    It’s got me in tears for the second time today. Found out today that one of my oldest friends got held up at gunpoint in his home two days ago.

    What a beautiful initiative by this girl. I really love it. I remember her story, she was gang raped by 4 men in front of her father at the age of 16 if I remember correctly.

    I sincerely hope that those handbags do end up with the rape victims and not with corrupt police. THanks for sharing this.

    May 27, 2011 at 3:27 pm
  • Reply Mash

    Sorry, she was 21 not 16.

    May 27, 2011 at 4:08 pm
  • Reply darylfaure

    Awesome! I will certainly get involved and do my bit and try and get some of my friends to help too.

    May 27, 2011 at 6:03 pm
  • Reply Laura

    I also participated in this last year. We managed to collect a few bags 🙂

    It is an awesome project!

    May 27, 2011 at 7:56 pm
  • Reply sue stuart

    What a moving story about a very brave young woman. I will definitely make up a bag.

    May 28, 2011 at 6:06 pm
  • Reply Adri Edeling

    Why don’t we try putting together a handbag party, entrance being one of these items/ bags?

    May 29, 2011 at 7:51 am
  • Reply Lesley

    Hi Adri I’m in Cape Town but your party idea is awesome. Nice post Sharon!

    May 31, 2011 at 10:58 am
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