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Cumbee Center works to raise awareness of sexual assault

April 2, 2017 GMT

April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month, and the Cumbee Center to Assist Abused Persons will be spreading the word about the issue.

The theme of the campaign is “Engaging New Voices.”

The Cumbee Center will hold three Walk a Mile in Her Shoes events in an effort “to engage the voices of men and boys in our mission to change our culture to prevent sexual violence,” said the organization’s executive director, Susan Selden. “As the saying goes, ‘You can’t understand someone’s experience until you’ve walked a mile in their shoes.’ ”

The first Walk a Mile in Her Shoes event is scheduled for 6 p.m. April 13 at the Aiken County Judicial Center (courthouse), 109 Park Ave. S.E. Chief Charles Barranco of the Aiken Department of Public Safety will be the guest speaker.

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The second will held at 6 p.m. April 20 on the Main Street Walking Trail in Williston. Chief Rodney Pruitt of the Williston Police Department will be the guest speaker.

The third is scheduled for 6 p.m. April 27 at the corner of Buena Vista and Georgia avenues. Chief John Thomas of the North Augusta Department of Public safety will be the guest speaker.

All three Walk a Mile in Her Shoes events are free for participants, who will wear high heels.

For more information or to sign up, call 803-649-0480 or visit www.cumbeecenter.org.

One Friday, Cumbee Center representatives put up teal ribbons in downtown Aiken because teal is the official color for Sexual Assault Awareness Month.

Selden said the organization also plans to place teal ribbons in Williston and North Augusta.

The Cumbee Center serves Aiken, Allendale, Barnwell, Edgefield, McCormick and Saluda counties. Last year, the organization offered free assistance to no fewer than 150 victims of sexual assault.

The Cumbee Center operates an emergency shelter and a 24-hour hotline. It also offers counseling, support groups and crisis intervention.

“Sexual assault is a public health issue affecting women, children, men and entire communities,” Selden said. “Nearly 1 in 5 women will experience rape or attempted rape in their lifetimes, and 1 in 10 children will be the victim of sexual assault.”

Selden also said the economic costs of sexual violence range from $87,000 to $240,776 per rape. Those amounts include medical and criminal justice fees.

In addition, victims of sexual assault can experience problems caused by post-traumatic distress order, eating disorders, depression, anxiety and substance abuse “that last for years,” Selden said.

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The Cumbee Center is collaborating with law enforcement agencies in its service area, the South Carolina Department of Social Services, forensic nurse examiners at Aiken Regional Medical Centers and representatives of the Solicitor’s Office to develop a Sexual Assault Response Team, or SART.

“The purpose of SART is to provide a full range of comprehensive services for victims by having all crisis responders gather for quarterly meetings to discuss the best methods for providing medical, legal and advocacy services for clients,” Selden said.