Offering options for victims
by The Press and Standard | July 27, 2018 5:00 am
Last Updated: July 25, 2018 at 10:15 am
“Love Shouldn’t Hurt” was the theme of a discussion held Thursday July 19 at Walton Options, 2414 N. Jefferies Blvd.
Speakers from the Walterboro Police Department, Hopeful Horizons, the Family Literacy Program, Vocational Rehabilitation, the Dept. of Juvenile Justice and Step Up talked about the various kinds of abuse and the options for help available for survivors with disabilities, of elder and domestic violence abuse and for the people who work with them.
Cpl. Amy Stivender of the Walterboro Police Department told the group about the department’s victims’ advocate program, which helps people work through the maze of paperwork and emotions associated with being a crime victim. “We deal with victims in all aspects of crimes. It doesn’t matter if the victim is a business. If there’s a crime, there’s a victim, whether it’s a person, an individual, or a business. What people don’t realize is that we have a person [Denise Pinckney] whose whole job is to deal with victims of crimes, to walk them through the criminal justice process. If you’ve ever had something stolen from you or if you’ve ever been in a domestic situation, the criminal justice process is extremely overwhelming. It’s a lot to take on.
“We have a victim’s advocate who is fantastic. She is an advocate for her victims, no matter what the crime is. We have a victims’ advocate that’s on call 24 hours a day, seven days a week. She talks to the victims, she shows up at scenes. She lets them know what their rights are as victims.”
Victims of domestic violence have a particularly hard time because they tend to second guess themselves, Stivender said. “They’re afraid. We have victims come in that say ‘I don’t even know what bills I have at my house’ or ‘I don’t know how I’ll take care of my child financially without my husband’s assistance.’” So they come back the next day and want to drop the charges.
But that’s not the option it used to be, as state law now says that the police can bring domestic violence charges with sufficient evidence, which takes the burden off the victim, she said.
That’s a big part of the WPD’s program in helping the victims get the help they need and letting them know that there are other options. WPD can help find resources to safeguard victims and their families, whether the victim lives in Colleton County or not.
“Mrs. Pinckney has a heart for this,” she said. “We have to be there. We have to be their voices.”
“People don’t always understand that people with disabilities often become victims of abuse,” said Ebony Rivers, director of operations for Walton Options.
“When I first took on the program, I didn’t want to focus just on victims of physical and domestic abuse. I wanted to focus on all sorts of abuse.”
One of the programs she’s overseen is nursing home transitions, and a problem she’s witnessed firsthand is financial abuse of the elderly. “These people are stuck in nursing homes mainly because family members have drained their bank accounts and they can’t afford to leave. And they were dependent on these same children to keep up the mortgage and the bills and the electricity — and they didn’t. And no one really wanted to talk about it.”
There are alternatives: there are companies who will work with victims in such situations to remove those past-due bills. But the parent needs to press charges against the children first and many won’t.
The discussion was a way to bring to light all types of abuse that happens to individuals with disabilities, she said.