Erika Hernandez ’15, the author of this post, is one of four 2014 recipients of a South Carolina Internship Grant provided by Davidson College and The Jolley Foundation. The purpose of the grant is to allow students to participate in educational internships and to explore living and working in the state of South Carolina.
I’ve spent most of my summer in Rock Hill, about an hour south of Davidson, helping
around Safe Passage. Safe Passage is an organization that provides services to victims and survivors of domestic violence, child abuse and sexual trauma. Safe Passage also has an emergency shelter for victims of domestic violence who are in imminent danger.
I remember the day that I was given a tour of the shelter. I felt pretty cool getting so much insider access to this program that has saved people’s lives. As I walked through the shelter, it was pretty quiet since there were only a few residents. I remember thinking, “I’m glad the shelter is empty, that means there aren’t many DV cases going on…” As though my supervisor were reading my mind, she told me that it wasn’t a good thing that the shelter was so empty. South Carolina is the state with the highest rates of domestic violence, including women who are killed by their intimate partners, and Rock Hill is on the top list within the state. So, having an empty shelter did not mean that domestic violence was not going on out there; it meant that those who were in dangerous situations were not seeking help.
It was in that moment that I realized how critical Safe Passage’s services are. One of them is a 24/7 crisis hotline where anyone can call to get help. I’ve spent a good amount of my time here inputting data on the crisis call database which requires me reading the stories of the women AND men who call, telling their stories of abuse and hardship. I’ve read about women who can’t call the police because their abuser IS the police, others who were being held hostage in motel rooms and even men who feel the need to defend themselves for asking for help with their abusive wives. In my mind, these were all stories that could only exist in a movie but it’s not like that at all. These were real people with real troubles.
While I encountered countless stories that were hard to wrap my mind around, I’ve come to realize that each phone call the crisis line receives is someone else breaking the silence in their abusive relationships. Many women have stood up after years and years of abusive relationships, tired of receiving treatment they don’t deserve. It’s that first step that really brings hope to women and men in these relationships but they’re places like Safe Passage that provide guidance for the steps to follow in regaining hope of a safe future.