16th Annual Handbags for Hope Campaign Begins

Handbags for Hope | Image by Josh Carter/The Dallas Express

The Texas Advocacy Project (TAP) on Thursday announced the kickoff of its 16th annual statewide “Handbags for Hope” campaign, a fundraiser that supports the organization’s mission to end domestic violence across the state.

Although this year’s campaign began on Tuesday — running from March 21 to April 21 — TAP’s press conference on Thursday kicked things off and announced the organization’s partnership with Dallas College.

The Handbags for Hope movement invites people to donate new or like-new handbags to be provided to survivors of domestic violence and human trafficking in Texas.

Handbags can be very useful to survivors of human trafficking, many of whom can carry everything they own in one.

Even after survivors of trafficking are examined by medical personnel, they frequently have to turn over all of their possessions as evidence.

When they finally get their belongings back, they come in clear plastic bags. So, while the bags have a use on a functional level, they also symbolize privacy for people who have had theirs taken from them.

The donated handbags are distributed through various agencies, shelters, hospitals, and clinics partnered with TAP and will include life-saving information.

“My true goal in the Handbags for Hope campaign of Texas Advocacy Project and our partnership with Dallas College is that we are able to collect enough bags to supply to every shelter that has requested them. These handbags will carry a life-saving legal line, 800.374.HOPE, in there. A phone number that can provide access to attorneys and social workers,” Heather Bellino, the CEO of TAP, told The Dallas Express.

“But my real goal, like the secret goal, the super-secret, secret goal is that every person that hears about this story takes a moment to think about what a survivor goes through, how courageous they are, and that they believe them and they say, ‘I believe you, I am scared for you, but when you are ready — because this is your choice when you are ready — without judgment, I will help to provide some resources. I will provide Texas Advocacy Project’s 800 number so you can get a free civil legal remedy to get long-term safety,’” Bellino added.

The Handbags for Hope campaign aims to raise awareness about this issue and provide much-needed support to survivors.

Domestic violence remains a significant issue in Texas, with one in three women and one in four men having experienced some form of physical violence by an intimate partner, according to The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence.

There were 212,885 victims of family violence in Texas in 2018, and 71.6% of family violence victims were female, according to HopeTotes.org, which provides needy and neglected children with the necessities of food and clothing.

“When victims call us, it is often the first time they have spoken with an attorney to learn that they have rights and that they can get protection and safety. It is a life-altering moment. Handbags for Hope arms them with one of the strongest tools to break the cycle of violence: access to legal services,” Bellino said.

For more information about TAP and the resources it provides, click here. To find locations where bags can be dropped off or to participate as a drop-off location or host a drive or collection event, click here. The organization also accepts cash donations.

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