Local non-profit takes action to help sexual assault survivors

NEWPORT NEWS, Va. - According to the National Sexual Violence Resource Center, one in five women and one in 16 men are sexually assaulted while in college. These staggering statistics are what the prompted the organization Fear 2 Freedom to act.

"We work with colleges and universities to attempt to change the culture around sexual assault sexual harassment and sex trafficking," explained Karen Webb, the Executive Director of Fear 2 Freedom. "To be able to change the culture so that instead of trying to combat these areas head on, we are trying to change the culture around it and eliminate it."

Webb says the organization began on the campus of Christopher Newport University in 2011. By partnering with colleges, community groups and hospitals, the group's mission and work has spread to eight states.

In addition to educational forums, Fear 2 Freedom also uses their partnership connections to create "F2F" kits, which are given to survivors of sexual assault at the hospital.

"Every person that goes into an emergency room who has been assaulted has to go through a PERK exam," explained Webb. "When you do that, you have to leave your clothes behind because its evidence and there may be another trace evidence that is left on the clothing."

Meaning victims have to leave the hospital in paper scrubs.

"It's been referred to by many as the walk of shame because you walk out of the hospital like that. You have left everything that was yours behind. You have basically left your life behind," said Webb.

In order to help victims begin to heal immediately, F2F kits are given out at the hospital. Each kit comes with a change of comfortable clothes, underwear, toiletries, a teddy bear and a handwritten note from someone who put together the kit.

"What we are trying to do is give them a small amount of power back," said Webb. "To let them know that they are supported, there are people behind them there are resources they can use. This is the first step back to recovery and back to a normal life."

The kits are put together at events at college campuses and then given to area hospitals. Fear 2 Freedom has several events coming up in March and April. More information about the organization can be found on their website and Facebook page.