In September of 2022, we received this message of encouragement from a survivor who wishes to stay anonymous. He was raped nearly 30yrs ago and is now able to share his story of strength and healing with others: most notably in the form of his teal ribbon-boots. He purposefully tucks his pants into them so that the ribbon is viewable to others and can spark conversations about healing from sexual assault. In addition to spreading awareness about sexual violence through his footwear, this survivor also participates in teal ribbon events such as Walk a Mile in Her Shoes, and has plans to continue sharing his story to help other survivors heal from theirs:
"I saw your page on Facebook and just wanted to express my admiration for what you are doing to help sexual assault victims. I recently became aware of The Teal Ribbon and am creatively using it to promote sexual assault awareness.
I own 6 pairs of cowboy boots with a 17 inch shaft. I prefer to wear boots with my pants tucked into the boots. It's not a common fashion trend for men to wear boots this way, but someone told that there are no rules against this. Some of my boots have Teal Ribbons on the straps.
I was inspired by a photo of country singer Pam Tillis wearing black boots with hearts on them. When I look at that photo, I see myself. She appears to be holding her head down with a sad look on her face like she's feeling weak and vulnerable. For a long time I have felt weak and vulnerable even though someone told me if we're not vulnerable, we can't feel anything.
That led me to have a pair of custom boots made with hearts on them and 10-31-92 in teal on the straps. On October 31st, 1992, I was raped by a man. I want my boots not only to show awareness of sexual assault, but also to say that I'm a survivor, not a victim.
I recently did The Walk A Mile In Her Shoes in a pair of my boots with The Teal Ribbons. I plan on doing more Teal Ribbon events in the future.
I commend your organization. Thank you for letting me share this."
It was such a blast being able to share a booth with the Unchained Valkyries! Over the weekend, ABQ SANE had the honor of helping table a booth alongside the Unchained Valkyries at the 2021 New Mexico Comic & Film Expo. We are blessed to have such a badass, fierce, and awesome group of women in our community who are taking action to help other survivors just like them. The burlesque calendars that were sold at the NM Comic Expo are available for purchase directly through the Unchained Valkyries' website. All proceeds will go towards mutual aid and other community resources for survivors of sexual assault and domestic violence.
Our team of 16 Sexual Assault Nurses have touched the lives of many patients over the years and, likewise, they have touched our hearts, too.
MaryAnne Chavez, who is both a provider with us here at ABQ SANE and Para Los Niños, fondly remembers one such patient. First joining ABQ SANE in 2010, MaryAnne has not only provided sexual assault and pediatric services to the people of Albuquerque, but over the years has also served as a Primary Care Provider and Family Nurse Practitioner for them, too. It was in her role as a PCP that she first crossed paths with Brandi.
"She was a patient of mine for three years. Such a caring, generous heart," MaryAnne remarked when questioned about Brandi. "She just loved helping people."
Brandi, who was born and raised in Belen, was a New Mexican that not only cared about her loved ones, but also her community, too. She was passionate about helping others, and in 2019 passed away from breast cancer at the age of 37. MaryAnne, acting as her PCP, had been there for her initial concerns. "Brandi was diagnosed with breast cancer at a very young age. She asked me to check out a lump on her breast. She felt something there. Her dog had been acting weird for awhile too, sniffing at her chest, constantly jumping at her... little did we know that it was smelling the breast cancer. Stage four,"
MaryAnne stated, reminiscing on the patient that touched her life. But as she continued, what she remembered most about Brandi wasn't her diagnosis; it was her selflessness.
"Brandi fought a very valiant, hard fight, but lost her battle two years ago. In her memory, her mama has decided to make Brandi Bags, which are just bags to brighten someone's day - and in honor of Sexual Assault Awareness Month, she brought them here. And she's also making some for Para Los Niños. Mostly so we can remember Brandi herself, because Brandi was all about helping people."
But what are Brandi Bags, exactly? The answer is bittersweet: they're care packages for others, all handmade with love in memory of Brandi herself. Containing items like flip flops, reusable water bottles, Chapstick, pins, lotion and more, Brandi Bags are meant to be an unexpected ray of light on a dark day for people. Brandi's mother, Patricia Gregor, and her sister, Heather Benavidez, created Brandi Bags not only as a tribute to their loved one, but also as a continuation of the generosity she had in life. They wanted to honor her memory with the same altruism that Brandi was passionate about, and to celebrate National Sexual Assault Awareness Month, Brandi's family constructed these bags full of goodies to help support the sexual assault victims of Albuquerque. Both ABQ SANE and Para Los Niños were lucky enough to receive a donation of Brandi Bags to gift to our patients. Brandi's family donated them with the intention of spreading her kindness across the city, and Patricia and Heather knew that she would've wanted to do the same after her passing, too.
The generosity and impact of this donation cannot be understated. Commodities such as flip flops and lotion go a long way for our patients. During sexual assault, personal items like shoes can be damaged; and for our patients experiencing homelessness, replacing broken personal items can be an outright luxury... so imagine the unexpected joy of receiving a Brandi Bag. Imagine the impact that a new pair of flip flops, toiletries like hair pins, water containers, etc. can make for someone's disposition. And, thanks to Patricia and Heather's donation, imagine the difference that a Brandi Bag can make for someone's healing after their sexual assault.
Brandi's love and devotion to helping others couldn't even be conquered by death, and ABQ SANE is incredibly grateful to have her spirit now live on with us in the form of Brandi Bags. Thank you, Patricia and Heather!
On March 8th, ABQ SANE is proud to celebrate survivors of sexual violence. While women are disproportionately affected by gender-based violence, their worth is NOT measured by their assault. Their story has only begun. And they are our heroes today on International Women's Day.
Read the profiles of several survivors of sexual violence below, and let their tenacity inspire you. In order, they are: Chanel Miller, Anita Hill, and Lorena Borjas.
We wouldn't be Albuquerque SANE without our SANEs! Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners (SANEs) are registered nurses who have completed specialized training in offering medical/forensic care for patients who have experienced sexual assault or abuse. Our forensic nurses are committed to providing patient-centered care for victims of sexual assault and domestic violence, and they make us proud every single day. They not only address the acute health of our patients impacted by violence, but have also demonstrated their ongoing dedication in many other forms, such as providing testimonies in court, conducting follow-up exams, and even serving as expert witnesses. Please join us in applauding our SANEs during this year's Forensic Nurses Week, November 9–13, 2020.
Self care can take many forms, shapes, and sizes. To some people it means going on a run. To others, it looks like buying a fancy meal. Whatever the preference, self care is an important aspect of our mental, emotional, and physical health. It is any activity that refuels us, and not drains us; but sadly, self care is an often forgotten aspect. So whether you meditate, do laps at the pool, or put yourself first for a day, it's not selfish. Rather, it's being conscientious that if we don't care for ourselves first, then we won't be able to care for others. One of our employees, who requested that we publish this anonymously, was nice enough to share her own self care ritual in the form of a photo essay below. Feel free to take inspiration from it as you discover your own methods of practicing self care: and always remember that you are 100% worth it!
The Albuquerque SANE Collaborative is an organization made up of people from many different walks of life, experiences, and beliefs. We firmly believe that everyone has something to bring to the table, and is worthy of dignity and care. In this entry, one of our own nurses shares a personal story about abuse in the form of poetry: her words are sure to be felt by whoever reads it, and her experience is both heartbreaking but powerful. We are immensely honored to have worked alongside such a brave woman who is not afraid to share her story of healing, strength, and honesty.
Connie is the current and temporary Albuquerque SANE Director. With a diverse public health experience in New Mexico, Connie has worked over 20 years in sexual assault and came back to the work after trying to leave. Yes, she’s guilty of needing to be needed – especially by SANE nurses. Shhh, don’t tell anybody but Connie would do anything for the Albuquerque SANE team of nurses - especially baking cookies!
Always a familiar face and beloved SANE member, Connie brightens up our organization not only with her confections, but also her laughter. Her sense of optimism is undeniable, her work ethic is infectious, and her baked goods are irresistible: so make sure to enjoy this recipe for oatmeal chocolate chip cookies.
Sometimes the most difficult thing that you can do is tell your story. Speaking your truth can seem like the scariest thing in the world at times, but the reward and empowerment that comes with it is nothing short of inspirational. We applaud all of the survivors who decide to share their story, and we are honored to have our first entry into this website be a testimony from one of our own patients. To all survivors who've decided to share their truth, and to the ones reading these words but aren't quite ready yet, we see you. We hear you. And we care about you.