Recently, the Madison Heights, Michigan campus of Ross Medical Education Center took donations of toiletries and handbags to help support women in abusive situations. They also took this opportunity to bring awareness to the verbal, mental, and financial abuse that lives in their neighborhood and workplaces. In order to address this issue and do what they can to help, they have been partnering with Jackie Bobcean and her organization Handbags of Hope for several years. They always look forward to this month to help her in her passion of empowering women escaping abusive situations.
Jackie enjoys working with organizations in the tri-county area to insure safety, sanity, and a road to independence. She stated, “unfortunately, three women will die today from an abuser, but how many hundreds live in silence? One in three women experience domestic abuse and one in five women are survivors of rape. When I started Handbags of Hope 12 years ago, I knew I wanted to assist some way in empowering women in an abusive relationship. A handbag is one of a woman’s most personal of possessions. We quickly learned how valuable and appreciated our handbags were to the programs and shelters. In 10 years, 20,000+ filled purses have been gifted. We were accomplishing our goal. In this time we discovered what was missing in our shelters and programs too. I also discovered how little domestic violence is spoken about and set out to change it.”
Speaking to groups, conference audiences, and directly to the public through vendor shows, festivals, and churches, Jackie and her team have watched women take information for help and hugged many survivors. “I’ve been approached after speaking to be told, ‘I grew up in a house just like that.’” Her organization is making a real impact. In fact, they did such a good job at filling purses with necessities that many other groups have started to do the same. Handbags of Hope was also adopted in other states, spreading the empowerment. Jackie encouraged students and staff to check out their “What’s in the Bag” news page for changes taking place in 2017.
“I will continue to Advocate and make my presence known at festivals, community events, Girls Nights Out, and company Wellness days,” shared Jackie. “I’ll continue to speak and share my story. I’m always approached after by a victim or survivor. I’ve even experienced women coming out to friends about their abuse after hearing me speak. I look forward to your continued support as we make these adjustments and become a stronger Voice in Breaking the Silence.”
In addition to sharing her story, Jackie also spends time teaching women about being safe with their surroundings by demonstrating personal protection products that are easy to use, effective and inexpensive like pepper spray, kubotan sticks, key rings and more. Even though her goal is to help women to learn to protect and defend themselves, she does not want them to be scared, but safe! “We live in a very unpredictable society; any one of us can become a victim.”
Several of the Ross staff and faculty members were very generous in donating this year. Ms. Lisa Nieves, the Evening Instructor for the Dental Assistant program, contributed hundreds of bottles of toiletries that will help make up many bags to give to women who desperately need them. Her philosophy is “enhancing the lives of others by giving.” Along with the toiletries, some purses were also donated by Julie Bastien from the Career Services Department and by Marie Lorenz, Clinical Instructor from the Medical Assistant program. Julie said, “it felt good to know something as small as cleaning out my closet helped in such a big way.” Marie summed it up nicely by reminding everyone that, “the world needs love, even if it is through a handbag.”