Help victims move beyond the abuse
Sunday, August 17, 2014 12:30 AM
Think of it as serendipity that two particular stories were published on the front page of Thursday’s newspaper.
They were different, yet they shared a common bond: sexual abuse.
One headline was about a lawsuit filed against Greenwood School District 50 and related the story of a Greenwood High 12th-grader who while on a school bus was reportedly sexually harassed, abused and forced to perform oral sex on another student while the act was recorded by another boy and posted to social media. The victim is described as “intellectually disabled,” she “thinks and functions on a second-grade level.” She was on a bus with students from the Genesis Education Center, known as the school attended by children with behavioral problems.
The second headline was about the re-dedication of Beyond Abuse, which used to operate under the name Sexual Trauma & Counseling Center. Beyond Abuse provides, free of charge, counseling and other services to women and children who are victims of sexual assault, primarily serving Greenwood, Abbeville and Laurens counties.
The first headline, sadly, shares a story that is not so uncommon here where we live. In fact, Saturday’s newspaper shares a similar tale of a young girl who apparently was abused by a 32-year-old man. The first headline, along with Saturday’s and those that surely will follow, point up why the second headline came to be written at all.
The statistics bear out that Beyond Abuse, and organizations just like it that dot the state -- is an unfortunately necessary organization performing vital services. Cases of sexual abuse, while they do vary, do not fluctuate the way the stock market does. Unfortunately, there exists a far too steady flow of cases, certainly even in the Lakelands.
Consider the statistics shared last week during the agency’s rededication ceremony. In 2013, the agency providing counseling for 157 people; on-call support services for 35 victims in hospital ERs; advocacy services for 239 children. Additionally, Beyond Abuse has an educational arm, much of which is geared toward equipping children with the knowledge about what is and is not deemed appropriate interaction with adults or even other children.
About 20 years ago, Martha Busterna took the helm and steered what has since become known as Beyond Abuse. A skilled counselor and grants writer, Busterna championed the mission of the agency and was a vocal proponent of her victims and their rights. A few years ago, the agency was led by Busterna’s second-in-command, Kris Burris, who has since taken a position with Piedmont Technical College. Burris also championed the cause and continued leading efforts to raise awareness of the crimes and why the organization was needed. More recently, Cathy Miller has taken the helm and also will be challenged by fund sourcing and public awareness.
You see, it’s a vicious cycle for Beyond Abuse because the agency deals with a sordid area of life that most of us would rather pretend doesn’t exist. Or we ignore it. Or we make the mistake of blaming the victims -- and yes, some have done that. It is far easier for many in the community to sympathize with the plight of dogs and cats (and this is by no means a slight toward the Humane Society of Greenwood and the great work and service it provides) than it is for them to try to wrap their minds around and pour any of their resources into sexual assault.
Next time you read a headline about a woman or child who has been sexually assaulted or abused, you can do more than shrug your shoulders or express what a shame it is. You can say how fortunate we are to have an agency like Beyond Abuse here to help those victims. And you can do something else. You can provide financial assistance. The facility is at 115 E. Alexander Ave. in Greenwood. And if you or someone you know needs help, call 864-227-1623 or toll free at 888-297-4546.
The Lakelands probably will never see an end to sexual abuse, but without support of this agency there is always the chance that victims will not be able to move beyond the abuse, and they most assuredly deserve that.