The Belles of Saint Mary’s College are working together to ease the emotional burden that survivors of sexual assault experience by collecting clothes for them through the organization Belle’s Closet.Belle’s Closet was created in Fall 2014 by Brandyn Blosser, Saint Mary’s College social work professor and 2003 alumna, to provide clothes to sexual assault survivors whose clothes were collected as a part of hospital exams. The donations provide the survivor an alternative to clothing from the lost and found or paper scrubs.“Many survivors share they feel ‘dirty’ after a rape and have no desire for additional attention,” Blosser said. “Wearing paper scrubs will definitely cause people to stare and not knowing if the donated clothing you are putting on is clean can cause even more anguish for a survivor.”Blosser said that the idea for this project came to her when she witnessed a hospital employee offering to buy clothes for a rape survivor.“My hope is survivors will know they are not alone and our community cares,” Blosser said. “A pair of new sweat pants may not seem significant to some. However, when every choice has been taken from you and you have been violated in the worst imaginable sense, new sweatpants and t-shirt are a start to feeling clean again.”Belle’s Closet not only meets community members’ needs but creates an opportunity for students in Blosser’s course Sexuality, Intimacy, and Relationships (SW341) to engage, the social work professor said. Blosser said that the organization requires students to be a part of project development and exposes them to different kinds of relationships, she said.“They receive an in depth presentation from the Special Victim’s Unit related to rape, sexual assault and domestic violence that will only help assist them to be stronger professionals when in each student’s prospective career,” said Blosser.The students involved in Belle’s Closet deliver donations of new clothing articles such as sweatpants or sweatshirts to the St. Joseph Regional Medical Center to subsequently be distributed to survivors in need. Senior Morgan Carroll took Blosser’s class last fall and said those involved in Belle’s Closet plan to reach out to larger companies for donations and holding community-wide clothing drives to help re-clothe survivors everywhere.“Providing new clothing to victims of sexual assault signifies a fresh start and gives them hope for the future,” Carroll said. “At a time when they may feel helpless and robbed of their dignity, we want to show them that they are still being cared for, that they really do matter.”Saint Mary’s senior Elizabeth Maloney said when Blosser presented the idea of Belle’s Closet to the class that her classmates were interested in right away and looked forward to getting involved.“The project means a great deal,” Maloney said. “You know, you hear of a sexual assault and you keep parroting on to others that one shouldn’t attack another person, or rape another person, but that doesn’t help the current situation, that may only influence the future. With Belle’s Closet, my classmates and I are actively helping the current victims.“I’m glad to be working behind the scenes to end a great social injustice.”Blosser said that she hopes to ignite students into action — especially when it involves a horrible situation such as sexual assault or rape.“Each of us can choose to accept the uncomfortable and gut wrenching realities of the world by saying there is nothing to be done or we can choose to fight for positive change by doing something regardless of how small,” said Blosser.
Measure restricts constitutional amendments Committee rejects proposals to allow a citizen statutory initiative process Gary Blankenship Senior EditorA move to restrict constitutional amendments, particularly those proposed by initiative, is moving forward in the Florida Legislature.The House Judiciary Committee on March 10 approved four proposed amendments, one affecting both initiated and legislatively proposed amendments and three impacting only initiative amendments.Passage came easily but after a lively debate and after the committee rejected a proposal to allow a citizen statutory initiative process in place of the tougher constitutional initiative standard.The amendments, which if approved by a three-fifths vote of the House and Senate, will appear on the November 2006 ballot, are:• Any new constitutional amendment whether proposed by the legislature or by initiative must pass with 60 percent of the vote, instead of the current 50 percent plus one standard.• Any proposed initiative amendment that would have a greater fiscal impact on state or local governments of more than 0.1 percent of the state budget (or $60.5 million for 2006 amendments) must pass with a two-thirds affirmative vote.• Proposed initiative amendments must amend or repeal an existing section of the construction, address citizens rights as related to Article 1, or change the basic structure of government as established in Articles II through V.• Any proposed initiative amendment must pass in at least 60 percent of the state’s congressional districts with 60 percent of the vote in each.Rep. Dan Gelber, D-Miami Beach, proposed the statutory initiative process, saying the structures passed on constitutional amendment initiatives might make it impossible for any of them to pass.“This process creates a reasonable and direct way people can affect democracy,” he said. “There are things in the constitution that probably ought not to be in the constitution. Giving the people a route whereby they can put things in the statutes. . . makes sense to me.”Under his proposal, an initiative statute during its first three years could be amended by a two-thirds vote of both chambers of the legislature, and after that by a simple majority in both chambers.But Rep. J.C. Planas, R-Miami, said Florida has a republican form of government, not a direct democracy, adding statutes that are approved by the legislature go through a deliberative process while those in the initiative process wouldn’t.“It’s very well intentioned and it sounds great, but in the end, it makes for a very poor form of government,” he said.Speaking on all the amendments, Rep. Fred Brummer, R-Apopka, argued citizens already have plenty of input.“This is a republican form of government we’ve set up and we get elected,” he said. “When you don’t represent the people, they throw you out of office.”Other panel members argued the constitutional amendment process has been hijacked by special interests whom pour money into slick ad campaigns what win approval from voters who don’t fully understand the issues.But Gelber argued that lawmakers didn’t even fully understand what they were doing, noting no one had determined how the 60 percent passage in 60 percent of the congressional districts requirement would have affected previous popular amendments. (Voting records are kept by county, and congressional districts cut across county lines.)It would also make impossible to pass an amendment like the overwhelmingly popular Sunshine Amendment, because when it was passed it did not address an existing section of the constitution, he said.Further, Gelber said, while the constitutional initiative process may be annoying to legislators, there’s no popular hue and cry for a change.“I have yet to receive a slew of e-mails saying, ‘Stop us, protect us from ourselves,’” Gelber said. “I haven’t had any calls to limit the rights of people to make changes.”All four measures were introduced as proposed committee bills. After their approval, they were to be given regular bill numbers and then assigned for further committee consideration. Two Senate bills, one requiring any two amendment to pass by a three-fifth vote and the other limiting the scope of initiative amendments, were approved by the Senate Ethics and Election Committee March 15, and referred to the Judiciary Committee.The Florida Bar has not taken a position on the amendments, although Board of Governors members have discussed whether “statutory” type amendments are cluttering the constitution. The board is considering a proposed position that all amendments, whether by initiative or from the legislature, should be screened to see that they affect a basic right, address an existing section of the constitution, or address the structure of government. Measure restricts constitutional amendments April 1, 2005 Senior Editor Regular News