Advocates react to surprising sexual assault numbers

BEAUFORT COUNTY, S.C. (WSAV) – It’s a number that could shock you. Only one conviction on sexual assault charges in six years in Beaufort County.

But sadly its a nationwide trend which has many advocates worried about past victims, and the future of punishing their attackers.

“Ideally it would be great if every single case and every single victim would find the type of justice they deserve. but the reality is that never happens,” said Shauw Chin Capps, CEO of Hopeful Horizons.

What is happening is a national trend echoed right here in Beaufort County. Sexual assault suspects not getting prosecuted, or not getting prison time for their crime.

“That makes victims less willing to come forward,” explains Capps. “Because really whats the point they will ask. Why go through all of that and there’s nothing that comes out of it.”

Shauw Chin Capps is CEO of Hopeful Horizons, an agency who counsels and supports those victims.

She says people need to remember that its more than just numbers, its about the people left behind suffering, wondering why.

“We really try and help them understand beyond the prosecution as the be all end all,” says Capps. “That they can move on that they still have the power to be at a better place with or without that prosecution piece.”

But while Capps says the system has to take some of the blame, so do people on juries. Disconnected from the consequences and reality of the crime itself.

“We still live in a very victim blaming culture, says Capps. “Its always about why did she do this, why was she drinking…their character from how many ever years back. There’s still this desire or misconception that people have in their heads that rape victims have to be what we call the “perfect victim” they have a clean record, they don;t sleep around, they don’t drink they don’t do drugs. As if those things if they are present makes it ok for someone to be raped.”

“We as a society need to come to the understanding that rape is rape. regardless of who you are, your background, whether you are a high school dropout or whether you are drinking or whether you are wearing short skirts or short shorts, whatever. that the responsibility of the crime is solely on the person that is doing the raping.”

“If we still believe could the victim have done something to prevent this or why was she doing this because she may have provoked it, what chance do victims have when it comes to prosecution and why would any victim want to make that report, if they are going to be faced with this kind of scrutiny and blaming.”

News 3 did reach out to Beaufort County Solicitor Duffie Stone. Stone says this is becoming a national epidemic and the numbers in Beaufort County are actually lower than the national average. Adding that his office does everything it can to prosecute cases and considers it a “high priority”.

If you are a victim and need or want help, you can contact Hopeful Horizons at their 24 hour hotline 843-524-2256 or at http://www.hopefulhorizons.org

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