By Kelly Nichols, as published in The State
If you live in South Carolina, chances are that your life has been impacted directly or indirectly by domestic violence, sexual assault or some form of child abuse.
You have likely been in the presence of someone who chose to remain silent.
Or you have known someone who spoke out.
Or maybe you are a survivor yourself.
With 1 in every 4 women a victim of some act of violence, we must understand that abuse can affect anyone: it knows no financial or societal boundaries — and it can creep into even the most beautiful homes and “perfect” lives.
For six years an organization has dedicated real dollars, time and energy to fight all forms of abuse in South Carolina.
The team of Silent Tears, founded through the generosity of Bob Castellani, has spent time visiting every crisis center in South Carolina — and as the only organization to do so, it has gained the firsthand experience necessary to assess the distinctive strengths and weaknesses associated with each center in its respective community.
And each visit is unique in its own way.
At one center I stood in the lobby behind a chair with worn pink upholstery that once was a vibrant red, the brown armrests tinted by the fingers of children.
How many various children had fidgeted in that chair over years, anxiously waiting to share their own horrific details of abuse? How many had stared at the murals in that room, seeking to briefly escape the reality of why they are there?
For some people, these centers are landing places for various appointments; for others, they become home, with living quarters shrunk down to little more a communal bunk bed draped with a Dora the Explorer sheet to create the illusion of privacy.
And due to a lack of services in some areas, many victims must travel an hour or more to reach the closest center.
Fortunately, these are physical problems that can be rectified by adequate community support.
We at Silent Tears have started to lay the foundation, but we cannot do it alone. Through our organization we have contributed $5.4 million to 34 organizations in six months to get things started — and there is another $2.4 million still to be given.
Yes, each individual center faces its own unique challenges.
But we believe that with the correct people in place within each center — and an investment of resources by our own communities — these centers will continue to be empowered to heal their respective communities.
The centers must be supported.
The network must be built.
The care must be provided.
And, yes, we’re all affected.
This holiday season you can change someone’s life by giving to one of the 34 centers across our state.
Kelly Nichols is the director of philanthropy for ELYSIAN Impact and the executive director of Silent Tears.