A new study released Tuesday suggests South Carolina take a number of steps to improve its response to child sexual abuse.
The 336-page report, unveiled at a Greenville press conference, recommends the state take such steps as improving training and expanding education for frontline child protection professionals.
“One day God just came to us and told us to get involved, and we did,” said Greenville businessman and GOP donor Bob Castellani, founder of Silent Tears who, along with his wife Lisa, gave $250,000 last year to conduct the statewide assessment.
The report, spearheaded by the National Child Protection Training Center, was feted at the press conference by a wide-ranging group of stakeholders that included law enforcement and health professionals, faith-based and business groups, and politicians, including SC Attorney General Alan Wilson, U.S. Rep Trey Gowdy, and U.S. Sen Tim Scott, each of whom spoke at the press conference in support of the report’s findings.
“Child sexual abuse is an issue that has no boundaries or lines. It affects all South Carolinians regardless of race, creed, religion, ideology or means,” said Wilson, who said he planned to use the report as a roadmap and advocate for its replication by other states through the Republican Attorney General’s Association.
“After working as a prosecutor, it is clear to me that we can do more to understand and prevent sexual child abuse and to bring the perpetrators to justice,” Gowdy said.
Though the state already has a strong and effective child protection system, National Child Protection Training Center executive director Victor Vieth said the report clearly showed the state could be doing more.
Among the report’s suggestions:
- Improve training at the undergraduate and graduate level
- Improve training in the field
- Improve the collection of evidence
- From crime scene to trial, resolving cases more quickly
- Develop partnerships between faith and child-protection communities
- Improve the mandated reporting system in SC
- Expand prevention initiatives in SC
- Improve the state’s juvenile sex offender registry
- Reducing “vicarious trauma” among child protection professionals