Social Justice Initiative Cor-a Helps Survivors ‘Walk With Dignity’
Cor-a is a non-profit social justice initiative providing the opportunity to support female survivors of sexual assault through anticipatory care and art therapy. The non-profit was founded by Penn State alum Madison Urich in 2020.
The initiative shared a statistic that every 68 seconds someone is sexually assaulted, and 90% of victims are female.
“It all started in 2020 as my senior design thesis,” Urich said. “I was in the graphic design program, and my capstone project before graduating was to create a business idea that designed all of the assets that go with a new business, such as a website, logos, et cetera. I was stuck on what to do, because it was so open-ended on what business I wanted to create, and I wanted to make sure that it was meaningful.”
Urich explained that she came across an article on Facebook displaying a basic pair of white cotton underwear with details of the problems sexual assault survivors face during their sexual assault evidence exam. The article explained that survivors often have to give up their clothing for the testing to get substantial DNA evidence. If DNA is found, the articles of clothing would then be used in a court case against the person who assaulted them.
“Often, that means they’re giving up their clothing and don’t have anything to wear home after going through this traumatic experience,” Urich said. “I remember thinking when I read that article that we still were living in a modern-day society that lets assault survivors walk home from the hospital in paper examination gowns, something that I noticed from my experiences at doctors’ offices. Those things are horrible, and I can’t imagine going through one of the most dramatic experiences of your life, having to put that on, and then having to go out in public after what happened to you in that paper gown.”
This struck a nerve and led Urich to do something and make a difference. A month later, in her graphic design class, the chance to create a business opportunity appeared, and from there Cor-a was born.
She entered her idea into the university’s 2020 Arts Business Ideas Competition and ended up winning. This provided some money to start the organization, allowing the Cor-a to jump off of the paper and into life to make an impact in the real world with real people.
“Cor” originates from the Latin word for “heart” and “-a” originates from “from Cora,” meaning to speak about, as from a friend. Cor-a then has the tagline “Walk with Dignity,” and it’s all about restoring a sense of dignity and hope in survivors as they make that walk out of the hospital room back to their lives after serious trauma.
Cor-a is partnered with three hospitals and crisis centers to provide care packages for assault survivors, two of which include Mount Nittany Medical Center and Centre Safe. The care packages are filled with all of the basic things that a person might need after a difficult experience, like clothing, toiletries, and other necessities.
“This can then let them feel like a person who can walk with a shred of dignity when they leave the hospital after giving up their clothing,” Urich said.
Common necessities found in the packages are makeup wipes, personal care items, a hairbrush, and a toothbrush so survivors can feel the tiniest bit better before they go home and are forced to transition into whatever their life looks like afterward.
Survivors often create drawings and pieces of art that speak to what was helpful to them during their assault, and Urich prints those designs on t-shirts that later go into future care packages along with a handwritten note from the desiartist
Cor-a has a blog where anyone can share their stories so survivors can find a community within their experiences. The blog’s sharing process can be extremely helpful to a survivor’s healing journey, as owning their experience and sharing it with others who have been through something similar has proven comforting to survivors. Sometimes posts include their names, while other times survivors may want to remain anonymous. Either way, being able to have ownership of stories can be an important part of the healing journey, according to Cor-a.
Cor-a has collaborated with the Gender Equity Center and Sisters On The Runway in the past and hopes to continue to work with the Penn State community, as it holds a special place in Urich’s heart.
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