April is Sexual Assault Awareness month, and one local woman is making an effort to support those who are currently going through, or have gone through what she has. Brianda Gagnon is from Rome and shared that she is herself a survivor of sexual assault and wants to help right here in the Mohawk Valley.

On average every 92 seconds, somebody in America is sexually assaulted, and 1 in 5 women are sexually assaulted in their lifetimes. Statistically, we are surrounded by women and men that have experienced this horrific trauma. As a survivor myself, I know the cost of sexual assault. I know the long and trying road that people need to travel to heal, and it seems like it never ends at times.

In January of last year, she attended a therapy retreat for survivors. While there, the survivors were given a bag with some objects inside to help comfort and heal those who were there both while they were there and after retreat ended.

The retreat inspired her to do the same thing locally. She's looking for people in the community to donate some items for her "Bags of Hope" to distribute around the Mohawk Valley.

You could play a vital role in helping survivors heal. One of the bags costs approximately $20. The items in the bags include:

  • Journals
  • Pens
  • Colored Pencils
  • Adult Coloring Books
  • Fleece Throws
  • Draw String Bags
  • Candles (votive size)
  • Candle Holders
  • Bath Soak
  • Water Bottles
  • Sleep Masks
  • Handwritten Letters of Encouragement.

According to Gagnon, the written letters of encouragement and the journals are the things that are of most interest.

Boxes for item drop off are currently set up at Napoli’s Italian Bakery, Yellow House Media and Bite Bakery and Cafe - and they're looking for other locations to become drop off points.

She says some of the other ways you can help include donating funds towards the cause, printing out resources, sharing posts and helping to pack the bags. There will be a bag packing event taking place at the Utica Public Library on April 27th.

All of the bags will be donated to the YWCA of the Mohawk Valley.

If you are a survivor or are currently battling a circumstance of sexual assault, The Rape, Abuse, & Incest National Network (RAINN), organizes the National Sexual Assault Telephone Hotline. The Hotline is a referral service that can put you in contact with your local rape crisis center. You can call the Hotline at 1-800-656-4673, or access RAINN’s online chat service.

You are not alone.

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