A large grant is helping some Lowcountry agencies and the solicitor’s office– stand up for victims of domestic violence and sexual abuse.
The S.C. Public Safety Coordinating Council and South Carolina Attorney General’s office announced the grants yesterday. $42 million statewide for state and local agencies, as well as non-profit groups that can help victims.
There are three different types of grants: Victims of Crime Act (VOCA) grants; Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) grants; and State Victim Assistance Program (SVAP) grants.
Most of the money, about 98 percent, comes from federal grants, with the rest coming from state funds. Both the Victims of Crime Act fund and the Violence Against Women Act awards are appropriated by Congress from the Victims of Crime Trust fund.
The Fourteenth Circuit Solicitor’s Office is receiving two VOCA grants and one VAWA grant for $464,000 to provide for a Specialized Prosecution Team for Sexual Assault and Domestic Violence, and a Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners (SANE) program for the service areas of Allendale, Beaufort, Colleton, Hampton, and Jasper counties.
14th Circuit Solicitor Duffie Stone calls the grants a “game-changer” for victims. Hoping to answer some important questions for folks in need.
“How do we break the cycle of violence? How do we help the victim move on from their batterer or abuser? How do we do that?” explained Stone.
One of the ways Stone hopes to do just that is through his victims’ center inside his own office building.
“It is a consolidated victims center,” says Stone. “Its a one-stop-shop for all these which makes it all the more convenient for the victims themselves.”
According to Aimee Powell, that can be vital for domestic violence survivors looking for a way out.
“A lot of victims have been kept at home, they’ve become stay at home moms, they haven’t advanced in their careers like their abuser did, so they don’t have access to financial assistance that the abusers do. So they can’t afford a good attorney,” says Powell.
Powell knows that first hand. She was in an abusive relationship for more than four years.
“This July was 8 years since I ended a 4 and a half year-long abusive relationship,” explains Powell. “Physical, emotional, financial, spiritual, mental abuse. You name it.”
She sees the pattern now but also knows getting to the point where she or any survivors are ready to move on – and take their lives back is tougher than you might think.
“Taking time off of work and paying for gas to go to all these places, it is an additional burden on them that makes it even scarier to do what they need to do to save themselves or save their children.”
That’s why this center is so important. One place where you can get physical, emotional and legal help under one roof.
$464,000 in grants going directly to that facility. It will be home to Lowcountry Legal Aid, CAPPA and Hopeful Horizons along with the specialized prosecution unit for domestic and sexual abuse.
In the past, this difficult journey for abuse victims would have to start in a car. With a trip to Charleston for that official examination. Now people in the 5 counties of the 14th Circuit can start closer to home.
“Instead of driving in some cases close to 3 hours to go to a hospital which is not particularly child-friendly,” says Stone. “They can come here, they can have their forensic interview done in the same location and at the same time. You are talking about reducing the trauma to children in a situation which you can only imagine how horrible the situation already is for them.”
Hopeful Horizons alone received a VOCA award for $1,668,429 and VAWA grant for $64,530
This is a modified excerpt from what I said at the 2017 press conference:
Funding from VOCA and VAWA allows that agency to provide critical free services for over 1,100 of victims of child abuse, domestic violence and sexual assault each year. Services like counseling, trauma treatment, case management, and victim advocacy.
This funding allows Horizons staff to conduct outreach into each of the communities we serve to try to ensure that all victims know that they are not alone and that help is available.
For victims of child abuse, domestic violence and sexual assault in Beaufort, Colleton, Hampton, Jasper and Allendale counties VOCA and VAWA funding has meant that there would be someone there to answer their calls for help 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
That’s the goal of the center and the grants. To create a situation which Stone says is not about prosecution, but healing and help. You can get the medical aid, the mental counseling and the legal aid like filing a restraining order without ever dealing with a Prosecutor if you want.
Powell says the services are there, now it’s up to the victims to make that tough first step toward freedom.
“Just call, reach out, there are people that want to help you, just ask for it and be ready for it. When you are ready they are there.”
The official opening will be October 10. Prosecutors from the special victims unit team have already been working for two years to help break the cycle of violence and put abusers behind bars.
if you are a victim and need help now, you can call Hopeful Horizons on their 24 hotline at 1-800-868-2632. https://www.hopefulhorizons.org/
Hopeful Horizon video on the signs of abuse and dealing with an abuser: