Officials from law enforcement and other community organizations reiterated their commitment to working together to handle child abuse cases Sunday afternoon in Beaufort.
Beaufort County Sheriff P.J. Tanner, 14th Circuit Solicitor Duffie Stone and several others signed a memorandum containing the protocols of the 14th Judicial Circuit Multidisciplinary Child Abuse Response Team at a ribbon-cutting ceremony that celebrated the opening of Hope Haven's new facility.
The Multidisciplinary Team, composed of nearly 30 agencies from around the 14th Circuit's five-county area -- police departments, sheriff's offices, hospitals, school districts and others -- streamlines the process of child abuse investigations in the circuit, said Shauw Chin Capps, executive director for Hope Haven, a children's advocacy and rape-crisis center.
Through the team, everything in a child abuse investigation is coordinated on site through Hope Haven, including mental health treatment, thereby minimizing the number of times the victim has to tell his or her story -- and the amount of trauma the child could suffer by reliving the experience, Capps said.
On Sunday, Stone told an audience of about 100 people how, as an assistant solicitor in Columbia, he worked with a sexual assault victim who had to recount a story to investigators almost half a dozen times -- all before the events would be revisited in court and in trial.
"It increases efficiency, but it eases the trauma the victim faces by limiting the amount (of times) they have to relive the events," Stone said. "It makes it a team understanding. I'm proud to be a part of this team."
Capps and Hope Haven staff cut a ceremonial ribbon outside their new Charles Street office, where it moved after 12 years in an office on Robert Smalls Parkway. Capps said the move was needed to accomodate new staff brought on with funding from two grants obtained by Hope Haven. The new offices took six months to renovate, she said.
Last year, Hope Haven served 521 direct victims of child abuse and sexual assault, according to a news release. Of those, 82 percent were children younger than 16, and 57 percent were younger than 11. Stone said Hope Haven also helps with witnesses in cases, offering treatment for the psychological effects of abuse.
Follow reporter Matt McNab at twitter.com/IPBG_Matt.
Related content: Hope Haven moves to larger building, Feb. 7, 2014