By VICKI BROWN
Walterboro now has a place that helps victims of child abuse, domestic violence and sexual assault.
Hopeful Horizons is a children’s advocacy, domestic violence and rape crisis center. It opened on March 19th and is located at 110 Walter Street in Walterboro.
The new center is sponsored by a Coastal Community Foundation Catalyst Grant, the first of its kind to be used for this type of victims’ support center.
Hopeful Horizons’ new Walterboro office will assist victims of child abuse, domestic violence and sexual assault. As part of that assistance, therapy and forensic interviews will be held in cases of alleged child abuse or neglect. Victims will be supplied with information and advocacy in a bright, welcoming, and stress-free environment free of charge. The organization also provides a safety zone while offering hope and healing to survivors. According to the center’s director, Erin Hall, Hopeful Horizons uses evidence-based practices, outreach, prevention and education to help women and children.
In the past, Hopeful Horizons’ therapists had to travel to Walterboro weekly to see victims of child abuse and domestic violence. Previously, for victims needing forensic interviews, families had to travel to Hopeful Horizons’ offices in Beaufort, Bluffton or Okatie. This is because Hopeful Horizons serves Beaufort, Allendale, Colleton, Hampton and Jasper counties.
Now, however, Colleton women and children have a local resource. “Opening an office in Colleton County has been a dream of mine since I first worked with CODA and domestic violence survivors in a small office in Walterboro in 2004,” said Kristin Dubrowski, CEO of Hopeful Horizons. “I’m thrilled to see this dream come to life!
“We are grateful to the Coastal Community Foundation and the community for making it possible to expand our services for abuse victims living in and around Colleton County,” she said.
The centers’ services to support crime victims are needed in Colleton County. According to Kid’s Count statistics from 2018, Colleton County had the highest rate of child abuse/neglect cases in South Carolina.
Colleton County’s sexual assault rate is also the third-highest in the state, according to the State Law Enforcement Division (SLED). Colleton County is also ranked second and 10th out of South Carolina’s 46 counties for having the most domestic violence per capita, according to statistics available from SLED.
“These statistics only offer a glimpse of the magnitude of child abuse, domestic violence and sexual assault in Colleton County,” said Erin Hall, with Hopeful Horizons.
According to Fourteenth Circuit Solicitor Duffie Stone, only 4-percent of all victims actually get the aftercare help they need.
“We certainly have needed this here in this county. It has been a long time coming, but we are happy the victims here will have Hopeful Horizons to help them,” said Stone. “Domestic violence is our biggest crime problem in South Carolina. In the latest study by the National Violence Center, we ranked 11th in the nation in terms of the number of women killed by men. Another national study indicated only four percent of domestic homicide victims were using victims’ services at the time of their death.
“This is why it is so important for Hopeful Horizons to bring their services to Colleton County. This is good for Colleton County, and it’s good for South Carolina,” Stone added.
The center offers therapy to victims, along with a variety of other services.
There is a Forensic Interview room, where therapists can interview children and adult victims. This is critical because victims only have to tell their story once, to the interviewer.
In another room, law enforcement officers, Guardians ad Litem, Child Protective Services, DSS case social workers, members of the solicitor’s office, and forensic interviewer Brook Bentley can watch remotely. “This has been needed for so long,” said Dee Scott, a therapist for Hopeful Horizons.
Meredith Matthews, the front desk advocate at the new center, will be the first smile that anyone sees when they enter the building. Matthews is also a survivor of domestic violence.
“I still remember the first person I first met when I went to get help. I was 15. Now, I am the eyes and ears for social workers and other advocates who are working cases,” said Matthews, a Colleton native. She also said that the center has a selection of small blankets and toys, and she is asking for more donations. “These are given to every child that comes in,” she said. “A sewing group makes them for us. We also have a collection of new toys, so every child that comes in for help gets to pick out something.”
The center is constructed as part of a grant from the Coastal Community Foundation, a philanthropic organization serving the nine counties of coastal South Carolina.
“The Catalyst Grant was created to support nonprofits’ bold, ambitious ideas that address community needs in the Southern Lowcountry region,” said Veronica Hemmingway, Southern Lowcountry director of The Coastal Community Foundation. “We are excited to see Hopeful Horizon’s new Walterboro office opening, giving the organization the opportunity to support victims of child abuse, domestic violence and sexual assault in Colleton County.”
How to get help
For more information on the mission and vision of Hopeful Horizons, visit www.hopefulhorizons.org or contact Erin Hall at 803-260-0208 or via firstname.lastname@example.org.
To access any of Hopeful Horizons’ services in person or remotely, please call the 24/7 Support Line at 843-770-1070 or 800-868-2632.
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