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Austin organization collecting handbags to fill with life-saving resources to hand out to domestic violence, sexual assault survivors

For the last 16 years, the Texas Advocacy Project has been doing the "Handbags for Hope" drive, which has provided over 46,000 bags filled with resources.

AUSTIN, Texas — A local organization aimed at helping victims of domestic violence and sexual assault is collecting bags to fill with life-saving resources and give out to survivors.

The Texas Advocacy Project (TAP) is collecting new and gently-used bags ranging from handbags and purses to tote and diaper bags. TAP will fill the bags with pamphlets about their services, along with a discreetly sewn-in label with their hotline number inside the bag.

"When somebody exits a shelter and they take that handbag with them, perhaps the brochures and the pamphlets have been left behind or have been destroyed so that their abuser does not know that they have resources available to them. But with that 800 number discreetly inside, they are able to have that with them at all times," TAP CEO Heather Bellino said.

Bellino said the organization chose handbags because they are something people usually always carry and have most of what we need at their fingertips.

"If you're in an abusive relationship, you may have left in the middle of the night with your children's hand in yours. And really that's about it. But if you can have a handbag and it can have resources tucked inside for your safety, then you have that utility that we all carry also," Bellino said.

TAP provides free legal help to survivors of domestic violence, sexual assault and others who have been abused.

For the last 16 years, TAP has been doing the "Handbags for Hope" drive, which has provided over 46,000 bags filled with life-saving resources. TAP plans on giving them out in time for Mother’s Day. 

Children in shelters can pick out a bag to give to their mom as a present, and others without children will be able to pick out their own bags.

"We just make sure that the survivor who receives that handbag is then fully resourced in case they do leave that shelter and they need to make decisions later on. They have everything at their fingertips so that they can be informed and what could provide them the greatest long-term safety," Bellino said.

The Austin-based organization is in need of about 2,000 bags to give out statewide, and the campaign is running until April 21. Community members that would like to donate a bag to the campaign can drop off a gently used bag to one of their drop-off sites. 

A map with all the drop-off donation sites, along with other ways to participate in Handbags for Hope, can be found on TAP's donation page.

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