Threads of Compassion
As an Edmond group of women affected by sexual assault themselves, Threads of Compassion goes beyond providing a simple, material item to someone. They are crafting a connection to fellow survivors of this terrible ordeal.
This local group of volunteers offers support to victims of sexual abuse through their talents of crocheting and knitting. By weaving empathy into scarves, they hope their efforts show rape victims they are not alone.
Rape is a violent crime that occurs once every two minutes in the U.S., according to the Young Women’s Club Association (YWCA), and an attempted rape occurs every three minutes. Statistics can only be formed from rapes that were actually reported though. The YWCA says that most rapes and sexual assaults are in fact, never reported.
The idea behind Threads of Compassion began in Chicago several years ago, according to Edmond resident Jessica Estes, who is a survivor of rape herself. Estes learned of the efforts in Chicago and decided to take action here. She began by crocheting six scarves over the holidays last year.
She then reached out to the YWCA in Oklahoma City and they were interested in helping facilitate the program. “It’s just grown from there really,” Estes said. Since starting up this program, 28 people have donated scarves and another 14 have donated money or supplies for the cause.
The group has a meeting once a month at the Memorial Road Church of Christ in Edmond, where volunteers can meet and talk, while they start on scarves. Estes says that the scarves are then completed by the volunteers on their own time.
This combined effort is perhaps as therapeutic for the volunteers as it is for the recipients. “One part that I didn’t necessarily expect to happen is just the encouragement that comes from being part of something that other people are doing too,” Estes said.
She explained that the effects of sexual assault can last long after the incident. Estes sought help within her church as well as the YWCA after her assault nearly 10 years ago. “Traumatic experiences take some time,” she said. “I had a good support group.”
Estes now hopes to reach out and offer her own support in return. After being knitted by a volunteer, the scarf is only the beginning of a meaningful journey as it’s handed over to the YWCA to become a part of a larger support program for rape and sexual assault victims.
According to Estes, the YWCA sends an advocate along with a victim to one of three area hospitals where they can get an exam, as well as treatment for an assault.
It is during this time that the advocate gives the victim a scarf. “It helps the victim, this provides them with hope that ‘I can get through this, these are people that have gone through this and they care about me,” says Karla Docter, Director of Crisis Response Teams for the YWCA.
The YWCA is an organization that offers a wide range of crisis services, says Docter. Those services range from emergency shelter and a 24-hour hotline, to individual counseling.
Grateful for the thoughtful donation, she says some victims will hold the scarves closely or drape the scarf
around their shoulders in an equivalent to a hug. “I’ve had some of them well up in tears,” said Docter, who added just how thankful she is personally for the volunteers who knit the scarves.
One such volunteer is Kayla Tur, an Edmond resident who wanted to use her talents to help others. She got involved with Threads of Compassion because she could relate to the victims.
“I am a survivor of childhood sexual abuse so I know how devastating it can be to feel like you’re alone. Just giving them something that says we care can help,” she said.
The organization’s biggest need is for more people to volunteer and make scarves, said Estes. According to Docter, the YWCA helps between 30 and 40 people a month who have been affected by assault. Estes’ goal is to make enough scarves for each and every one of them.
The scarves can be any color or pattern and can be either crocheted or knitted, but should be five inches wide and 65 inches long. “That is just kind of a base so that whoever receives it can probably wear it if they choose to,” Estes said.
The scarves are a literal link between survivors. Compassion is indeed in every thread. For more information on how you can help, visit: www.threadsokc.org.