Laura Hudson, right, executive director of the S.C. Victim Assistance Network, presents a plaque to Duffie Stone, 14th Circuit Solicitor, honoring his assistance to crime victims. COURTESY 14TH DISTRICT

The S.C. Victim Assistance Network has recognized 14th Circuit Solicitor Duffie Stone for his work to help crime victims, including the launch of a first-in-the-state victims services center.

“This award is given to a member of the criminal justice system who has exemplified true advocacy on behalf of crime victims,” said Laura S. Hudson, SCVAN’s executive director. “Solicitor Stone has knocked down barriers for crime victims not only in the 14th Circuit but has created a blueprint for others in the state.”

Working with several local organizations, the Solicitor’s Office announced the grand opening of the 14th Circuit Victims Services Center in October 2019. Partners include Lowcountry Legal Volunteers, Hopeful Horizons, the Child Abuse Prevention Association and the Lowcountry Alliance for Healthy Youth.

At the center, they assist victims of domestic violence, sexual assault and other crimes against the vulnerable.

“In reality, this is a community recognition,” Stone said. “The center is the result of over 20 organizations and individuals coming together to provide services that are critical to helping victims. Due to their work, in the first six months the center has helped more than 600 people, 100 of them children.”

Although there are other victim centers in South Carolina, they lack an exam room, the presence of a prosecutorial agency or both. The 14th Circuit Victims Center is located just down the hall from the Solicitor’s Office Special Victims Unit.

The facility also includes a medical exam room and forensic interview room.

Before the launch of the 14th Circuit Sexual Assault Forensic Exam program, children were forced to travel long distances for acute treatment, usually to the Medical University of South Carolina in Charleston.

The SAFE Program aims to mitigate that traumatic experience, Stone noted, by reducing both travel and the number of times victims must recount their experience to those helping them.

Stone was honored as part of the SCVAN’s 2020 Victims’ Rights Week Conference in Columbia in late July. The ceremony was conducted in an online teleconference because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

For more information about the Victims Services Center, visit scsolicitor14.org/victim-services.