Beaufort County officially opened its Victims Services Center last week, offering medical and other facilities and services victims need as they navigate the justice system.
Officials from the 14th Circuit Solicitor’s office say the center, which initially opened in November but recently added more services, is the first of its kind in South Carolina. It provides a medical examination room as well as prosecutors on site, sparing victims the trauma of having to talk about their experience repeatedly to multiple agencies.
The center, which helps victims of domestic abuse, sexual assault and other crimes against vulnerable populations, has a pediatric sexual assault nurse, according to a press release from the solicitor’s office.
“Until recently, there was no one in the 14th Circuit certified to conduct a forensic exam on a child,” Solicitor Duffie Stone said. “Today, we can not only provide that service, but other social services victims need mere footsteps away.”
S.C. Attorney General Alan Wilson, who spoke at the ceremony Oct. 10, said the center makes the system more efficient, “a more centralized system that allows you to collaborate and work across the region, the municipalities, the counties … in the largest judicial circuit in the state....
“It is very different from Hilton Head to Hampton,” Wilson said, according to the release. “To be able to work together and collaborate and bring all these organizations together to better serve the men and women, and especially the children, of this community is amazing.”
The Victims Services Center initially opened in November 2018, the release said, when several partners moved into rent-free office space inside the Solicitor’s Office headquarters in Okatie. Just down the hall from the Solicitor’s Office Special Victims Unit prosecutors, agencies such as Lowcountry Legal Volunteers, Hopeful Horizons, the Child Abuse Prevention Association and the Lowcountry Alliance for Healthy Youth provide consultations and services.
Last week’s celebration highlighted additional services recently added. The 14th Circuit Solicitor’s Office is the chief prosecuting agency for Allendale, Beaufort, Colleton, Hampton and Jasper counties.