Although South Carolinians have been ordered to stay home unless they are carrying out certain defined activities, that does not mean all of those remaining at home are safe.
For some people, the mandate is as dangerous as the COVID-19 virus they are trying to avoid. Service organizations are struggling to provide the same level of service for victims of abuse that they would if their doors were still open.
Hopeful Horizons, a nonprofit children’s advocacy, domestic violence and rape crisis center, provides safety, hope and healing to survivors through evidence-based practices, outreach, prevention and education. The organization serves Beaufort, Allendale, Colleton, Hampton and Jasper counties.
For Hopeful Horizons, ceasing in-person assistance was a tough decision, but help remains available around the clock via the hotline at 800-868-2632. If victims of domestic violence need to seek shelter, the organization will help connect them with other options.
In a recent press release, Hopeful Horizons CEO Kristin Dubrowski said that the abuse will not stop just because there is a public health crisis.
“In fact, abusers may now have greater access to victims while everyone is staying home,” she said. “Additionally, uncertainty for the future creates more stress and anxiety and we are concerned about individuals and families who may need Hopeful Horizons’ services now more than ever.”
In 2018, Hopeful Horizons helped nearly 100 victims of sexual assault, most of whom were assaulted by an intimate partner, date, acquaintance or other family member.
“We saw 1,389 clients in 2019. Our total number of clients from Jan. 1 to March 31, 2020, is 382. That’s all of our clients – child abuse, domestic violence and sexual assault,” said Erin Hall, chief development officer for the organization, in an interview last week. “And hotline calls have been down for the last couple of weeks. It’s so hard to know what this means!”
Court case hearings are on hold indefinitely, but family courts may still hear emergency cases, including emergency protective custody, juvenile detention, bench warrants and petitions for protective orders. If victims feel they need what is called an Order of Protection from Domestic Abuse, they may call the hotline. A crisis advocate will put the individual in touch with the court advocate, who can discuss how to proceed.
Hopeful Horizons’ therapists continue to work with individuals by phone, video calls and email. If needed, emergency forensic interviews will be conducted on an as-needed basis when a child’s safety is in imminent danger.
Victims of sexual assault will receive help and information over the phone if the victim wants to speak with someone while in the emergency room. Sexual assault victims will also receive a packet of information from Hopeful Horizons when they arrive at the hospital.
Like many other shuttered charitable organizations, Hopeful Horizons has had to cancel not just meetings but fundraisers, and they are working on ways to make up the lost opportunities. Donations of $25 gift cards to BiLo, Walgreens and CVS can be mailed to Hopeful Horizons, P.O. Box 1775, Beaufort, SC, 29901, to help support clients who are still being served as well as unemployed. Staff members are checking the nonprofit’s mail box.
For more information on the mission and vision of Hopeful Horizons, visit hopefulhorizons.org.
Gwyneth J. Saunders is a veteran journalist and freelance writer living in Bluffton.