By Micah Peppers | Local non-profit, Hopeful Horizons (formerly known as CODA and Hope Haven) held their annual Take Back the Night awareness event to give a voice to survivors of sexual assault and child abuse. Held in Henry C. Chambers Waterfront Park pavilion Friday evening, survivors and volunteers spoke to over 100 people discussing awareness, prevention, and treatment. Surrounding the pavilion were 1,495 purple and green flags – one for every survivor of sexual, domestic, or child abuse that they assisted last year.
CEO of Hopeful Horizons, Shauw Chin Capps, spoke on the purpose of Take Back the Night. The message was simple: Make hope happen, end abuse, and change lives. Capps has a staff of 44 working in various areas helping the non-profit organization succeed. The organization offers counseling, treatment, and even a 24/7 crisis hotline for those that just need to talk. Hopeful Horizons will also provide immediate shelter for women and children needing to escape an abusive relationship.
Sexual assault outreach specialist, CJ Atkins began the evening by introducing sexual assault survivor, Jane Carson-Sanders. Retired Colonel Carson-Sanders told of her terrifying encounter almost 40 years ago with the East Area Rapist and serial killer (who has never been caught). Sanders has been featured on the shows Dark Minds, 48 Hours, Crime Watch, CNN and People Magazine telling her story, but she wanted to state that she wasn’t there to tell the details of her attack. She referred to herself as first a victim, then a survivor, and now a thriver. Speaking with others and discussing her story of survival as well as finding her purpose in life led her to write the book, Frozen in Fear.
Carson-Sanders was followed by another powerful survivor, Tina Bagneski. Twenty years ago, Bagneski was stabbed by a still unknown assailant 17 times with a pair of sewing scissors. She woke up months later from a coma, paralyzed and remembering very little. The investigation of her attack led Bagneski to not only tell her story, but to teach others of deterrents, things to look for to lower a chance of an attack.
Other speakers included Mayor of Beaufort Billy Keyserling, State Representative Shannon Erickson, Beaufort Police Chief Matt Clancy, and City Councilwoman Nan Sutton.
Chief Clancy wanted to take his speech a bit further, not only helping give survivors a voice, but talking about how we can work together to stop abuse. “Treat everyone with respect and dignity…that’s how you break this cycle.” Violence Prevention Specialist, Aldriene Parker, also spoke on the prevention of abuse. As the leader of the MOST Club (Men of Strength), he works with middle and high schoolers throughout Beaufort and Jasper County to help young men become leaders in preventing violence against women and others. The final speaker of the night was Mr. Clean from B.A.C.A (Bikers Against Child Abuse). This group of strong (slightly intimidating) men take a firm stand against all forms of child abuse. They work directly with children empowering them and being a constant presence in their lives.
The event ended with an open mic opportunity. Those who have been victims of sexual assault or abuse were given the opportunity to come up and tell their story. After a couple of minutes, the first survivor bravely walked to the stand with an outpouring of applause and support. Others followed. Several mentioned it was the first time they had ever spoken of their abuse.
April is Child Abuse and Sexual Assault Prevention Month. Hopeful Horizons is dedicated to helping both current victims and survivors. If you or someone you know need to escape a dangerous situation, or simply talk about a past occurrence, don’t hesitate to call their 24/7 crisis hotline at 1800-868-2632 or visit their website hopefulhorizons.org for more information.
Photos by Micah Peppers/ESPB