Becoming a victim of sexual violence spurred UNC Asheville student Nikki Madle to join the movement against it, beginning with on-campus clothing drives and informative resource fairs. Later, she hosted a card-making event, inviting fellow students to share uplifting messages with survivors. “Eventually, I got more involved with Our VOICE,” she says. “I went through the training to become an advocate, so I’m on call three times a month now, and I’m doing some other projects.”
One initiative involves amassing supplies for the nonprofit crisis intervention and prevention agency. “I’m collecting toothbrushes, toothpaste, new underwear, used or new sweatshirts and sweatpants that don’t have writing on them (of any size, for any gender), chapsticks, and travel-sized shampoos and conditioners. And all of that is going into a hospital bag.”
Our VOICE advocates go to the emergency room when someone gets raped, Madle explains. Victims that have a rape kit done must turn over their clothing, and others who are homeless or hospitalized after domestic violence may not have access to everyday staples like hygeine products. Donated items can make the situation “a little less horrible.” Advocates then stay for the entire hospital visit (roughly six hours) to ensure against further issues like victim blaming or referencing transgender individuals by the wrong pronoun.
Despite mixed reactions — “I’ve received everything from ‘You’re doing a great job!’ to ‘A lot of rapes aren’t actually rapes anyway, so why are you bothering?'” — the young activist’s efforts haven’t gone unnoticed. “I have been nominated for Outstanding Leader of the Year at UNC Asheville,” Madle says, “and asked to come aboard as a student employee working for the [university’s] Title IX office.”
Madle’s donation drive runs through Friday, April 15, with drop-off bins at UNCA’s library lobby and fitness room entrance. Donors can also email firstname.lastname@example.org to arrange pick-up. Visit ourvoicenc.org to learn more about Our VOICE, including details on applying for the next advocate training session, which begins Wednesday, April 20.