HILTON HEAD ISLAND, SC (WSAV) – A Lowcountry man facing serious charges for what he allegedly did to children he knew.
It Is a two-state investigation that landed the Hilton Head Island senior citizen in jail.
77-year-old William Beckemeyer is facing four charges of criminal sexual conduct with a minor.
According to Sheriff’s Office in Beaufort County and police in Huntersville, North Carolina, he abused the four different victims over a period of time and knew all of them before the abuse started.
An estimated 618,000 children were victims of abuse and neglect in 2020, the most recent year for which there is national data according to the National Children’s Alliance.
Statistics show that in these cases nationwide, more than 90% of victims knew their abuser.
In our area, Hopeful Horizons, which helps these victims, says that number is closer to 95%. Only 4 cases last year were from an unknown attacker.
These are kids who know their abusers, trust their abusers, and pay the price for that trust.
“We are generally taught as kids to respect our elders and to look up to our elders,” explains Kristin Dubrowski, CEO of Hopeful Horizons.
But unfortunately some of those “elders”, like William Beckemeyer according to investigators, are looking to take advantage of those signs of respect.
“Looking for an adult who is probably trying to gain access to the kids, to spend time alone with the children,” said Dubrowski. “Potentially overnight, going on trips, spending extended periods alone with the kids. Which again in a healthy family where there is no abuse happening, you trust each other.”
Trust can be broken by the adult who is abusing a child, especially someone they know.
That’s why parents, siblings, and anyone should keep an eye on these kids and look for something that just doesn’t seem right.
“How they are dressing how they are eating how they are acting,” Dubrowski says are signs something is wrong. “If they are having concerns about spending time with that family member.”
“It becomes very complicated in a child’s mind to sort all of those things out. Here’s someone I love and I trust they are older than me they know more than me, and they are telling me it’s ok. they are telling me not to tell anyone it’s our secret.”
“If the child is talking about hurting. If there’s a manifestation of that abuse by acting out that behavior on other siblings or other friends or seem overly interested or knowledgeable about things they shouldn’t be at that age.”
Knowing their abuser makes it even tougher to talk about it, or turn them in.
“If a child speaks out against someone who is abusing them they might be ostracized by other family members who might not support them, might not believe that it could happen,” says Dubrowski.
“It’s amazing when a child actually comes forward and talks about the abuse they have experienced if you think about if you think about all the things that are kind of stacked against them.”
The victims were all from North Carolina, but investigators say the abuse happened on Hilton Head.
Beckemeyer turned himself into Beaufort County Sheriff’s last week.
If you know a child or an adult who may be an abuse victim or just needs help, call Hopeful Horizons’ 24-hour support line at (843)770-1070.