October is domestic violence awareness month. Every single time it rolls around, we make sure that we keep that issue at the forefront, and make sure that you know what to do if you spot domestic violence, or if it is impacting you. The resources are certainly right here, in the River Region, ready for you to take advantage of.
Brad Means: Susan Seldon, the executive director of the Cumbee Center in Aikin, is gonna talk about domestic violence, what’s she’s seing day to day, and the resources that are available to address it. She’s no stranger to the means report. Susan, thanks for what you do for victims and for being back with us.
Susan Seldon: Thank you, I’m certainly delighted to be back.
Brad Means: Well, it’s a weird question to ask, but how’s business? How are things at the Cumbee Center as far as the number of folks seeking help?
Susan Seldon: We are certainly helping as many as ever, possibly more, so business is good in the fact that we’re still up and working, but that’s bad because that means we still have violence in our areas.
Brad Means: You know, South Carolina and Georgia rank very high when it comes to women being killed by men.
Susan Seldon: Right.
Brad Means: Both are in the top 25 in this country, which is bad, but it does go to your point, that people are coming to your door and asking for help. Why do you think this is happening? What can we trace this to? Is it the typical factors we’ve discussed in the past or are there some other factors that are making women, men abuse women?
Susan Seldon: I think it’s the same patterns that we have not been able to change a culture of violence, and there’s been grassroots efforts since the ’70s. And now here we are, 2018, we still have the same violence. The Violence Policy Center was, just released their report for when men kill women, and we found out that South Carolina has ranked in the top ten, the 20 years they’ve been doing this report.
Brad Means: If someone seeks help at the Cumbee Center, are they one hundred percent guaranteed to have a safe life thereafter? I mean, tell me how it works once they do pick up that phone or knock on that door. Can you pull them out of the situation?
Susan Seldon: We can, we can help them get out temporarily, we can keep them in our shelter for 60 days, so after that we try to help them find another safe place to live. We can’t guarantee they’ll be safe forever, as we know they go back, usually. At least six or seven times, before they finally are done. And when they leave, that’s the most dangerous time, they actually face.
Brad Means: Why do they leave? That was about my tenth question. I’ll get to it now. Why do they not leave? Why do they stay put?
Susan Seldon: That’s a good question, people ask me that all the time. It is so hard financially for some women to leave. If they’re a low economic station, then they don’t have anything to bring with them. If they’re already making money or have a job, usually the abuser is financially abusing them. Keeping their money, taking their checks, so they don’t feel comfortable. They don’t feel safe. They haven’t enough resources to leave.
Brad Means: What about the assistance for the children? I think sometimes that’s a big reason victims stay is, at least this is a stable – if you will – environment for my kids, I don’t wanna blow that.
Susan Seldon: Right, and they do feel guilty for taking the kids away from another parent, but the kids are constantly being traumatized by witnessing the violence. So even if they do leave and find a place to get out, it is better for the kids to get away from the violent atmosphere.
Brad Means: Are you seeing any violence among young people? Is that something that the Cumbee Center would deal with?
Susan Seldon: Like, dating violence? Yes we do. We have some educators that like to go out in the school systems and community groups, talk to students about how to watch for domestic relationships and violent relationships. How to protect themselves, how to get out of harmful relationship patterns. So we do see some people in those.
Brad Means: What would you say to a boy, if we have some parents of sons out there, what do you say before they enter the dating world about treating women?
Susan Seldon: Well just like I taught my own sons, women should be treated with respect. Just like men, they should be treated as equals, and you never touch somebody without some kind of consent.
Brad Means: And what about parents of daughters? Message for them?
Susan Seldon: For daughters it’s so much more complicated. We can’t always defend ourselves, so just taking self defense classes might not work. But we just need to have enough self esteem and enough self respect to know that we deserve a better relationship.
Brad Means: The issue of sexual assault has been in the news nonstop lately.
Susan Seldon: Right.
Brad Means: When that kind of crime, when that kind of situation makes headlines – and I’m not taking sides politically whatsoever, my question is just when that is in the news – do you all see a change in the number of folks reaching out to you?
Susan Seldon: Oh absolutely.
Brad Means: Really?
Susan Seldon: We do. We’ve had so many calls. Most of them were forwarded by the National Sexual Assault Hotline. We’ve had calls from people that have never reported abuse. It may have happened 20 years, 40 years ago, but these kind of news cycles bring that back up to them, re-traumatizes them, and they need a safe place to talk to someone.
Brad Means: So, if it’s some who was victimized a long time ago, they’re out of the situation, but they’re still impacted by it. What sort of services can Cumbee offer for them?
Susan Seldon: We can offer them counseling, and we’ll help them process the trauma that they’re experiencing, help them learn good coping skills, and also our support group. We have a support group that meets every Tuesday at five o’clock for survivors, and just being with somebody that’s been through similar situations very helpful.
Brad Means: You know, in a few weeks Georgia voters are gonna get a chance to weigh in on Marcy’s law. Marcy’s Law is in 32 states right now across this country, and it’s a law that protects victims. It gives them the same Constitutional rights that an offender would have. It protects them from the offender. If offers them, in some cases, restitution for what they’ve gone through, and many other things. South Carolina has it. Georgia’s gonna vote on it. What are your thoughts about making sure that those victims’ rights are maximized?
Susan Seldon: Well, we have to have victims protected. They have to have the rights, especially to be notified if their abuser’s been released from jail, or is out on bond. They need to be notified if there’s any court proceedings or criminal cases going on, and it’s for their own safety that they get these notifications.
Brad Means: What do you all need right now? Congratulations on your new facility.
Susan Seldon: Thank you.
Brad Means: What can the community do to help you do your job, especially with so many people reaching out for help?
Susan Seldon: Ongoing donations, we do get those from so many generous partners, faith leaders, and clubs. But just essential, basic items of living are always needed. Deodorants, shampoos, that kind of thing. But we really need some financial help too.
Brad Means: Yeah, definitely.
Susan Seldon: We’re at a time where we’re growing, and to grow we have to have more resources.
Brad Means: We’re gonna put some information up on our screen about how you can support the Cumbee Center and the efforts that Susan has been describing. But first, I want to take you back to an event that we just covered just a few short days ago in South Carolina. It is the Silent Witness Ceremony, held on the Statehouse steps every year. A ceremony that marks the people who are no longer here, whose voices have been silenced. 29 women and 11 men, killed at the hands of their loved ones last year, in the Palmetto state. All 40 remembered at this 21st annual ceremony. The South Carolina attorney general’s office puts it on. Each victim’s name was read, a bit of their story shared as well, and a domestic violence survivor was on hand to share her story and words of encouragement to the family there. I know that October is always a very significant time for you all, Susan. How much of a role do survivors play when it comes to connecting with women who are still going through it?
Susan Seldon: Encouraging the other ones who are coming along and letting them know that they’re still here, that they are recovering, they’re getting the help they need and they can tell them where they get help. Just sharing information about the resources is very helpful and these people who tell their stories, it really inspires all of us to continue what we’re doing.
Brad Means: And it’s everybody who’s impacted by domestic violence.
Susan Seldon: Yes.
Brad Means: You can’t really picture one type of person who’s abused or is an abuser. It’s everybody, isn’t it?
Susan Seldon: It is.
Brad Means: Thanks for what you do.
Susan Seldon: Thank you.
Brad Means: And I appreciate what you do very much. Susan Seldon, Cumbee Center’s executive director. Please help them out, they could use your assistance, and the money stays right here at home. It’s helps more of those folks who need it so desperately. By the way, if you’re in immediate danger, call 9-1-1. Get the law involved. The Cumbee Center’s 24-hour hotline is 803-649-0480. Write that down. And log into CumbeeCenter.org if you need assistance or if you would like to provide assistance, you can log on to do that, certainly.