On February 12, 2012, while walking home to her new husband of eight days, Nellie S. took a familiar shortcut that changed her life. With dusk approaching, she crossed through a vacant lot hoping to save time and reach home before nightfall. She did not make it home that night.
Nellie was attacked from behind, brutally beaten, sexually assaulted, and left naked and unconscious on the ground. She does not know how long she was knocked out, but she does know that she regained consciousness to find a different man trying to sexually assault her, only to run off, thwarted, when a passerby crossing the lot came upon the scene. The passerby tried to cover Nellie, called 911, and stayed with her until the paramedics and police arrived.
But, this story is not so much about what happened to Nellie that fateful day; it is about what happened afterward. It is about the comprehensive support services that were quickly provided to her, and which she is still using – at no cost to herself – more than a year later.
In addition to being assigned a rape advocate through the Victim-Witness Program of the Greenville County Solicitor’s Office, Nellie was also provided services through the Victim Services Unit of the Greenville Police Department. A grateful recipient of these services, she was happy to describe how they had helped her.
How did you learn about the victim assistance programs?
“Through the Greenville Memorial Hospital System, and I have a rape advocate through the Greenville County Courthouse.”
How did the victim assistance programs help you? What services did they provide to you?
“Mental health, rape counseling, disability. Right now, I’m in the process of getting restitution. A lot of different things, a lot of different ways.”
How long did they help you?
“They’re still in the process of helping me. It’s been a year since the incident and they’re still helping. [They help] For as long as it takes for us to get back on our feet.”
The Victim-Witness Program
Greenville County’s Office of the Solicitor, located in the Greenville County Courthouse, runs the Victim-Witness Program. The program was established in the Thirteenth Judicial Circuit of South Carolina in 1978, and is set up in accordance with guidelines written by the Victim Assistance Policy Committee, which implemented the Victim’s Bill of Rights passed by the South Carolina Legislature in 1978.
The Victim-Witness Advocate aids crime victims by offering many services that are confidential and free of charge.
Advocates inform victims of their rights. They act as liaison between the victim and other agencies. They attend court hearings with victims or attend on their behalf. They inform victims of hearing dates, case updates, and dispositions. They arrange pretrial conferences upon a Solicitor’s request and attend them. They attend hearings when requested by the victim or their family.
The Victim Services Unit
Victim services may include:
Providing educational materials to law enforcement staff and the community in response to criminal victimization
Referring victims to appropriate service agencies/providers
Ensuring victims’ legal rights are protected
Advising victims of case status and progress and maintaining contact with and providing support to victims and/or family members throughout the criminal justice process as needed
Providing applications and information to victims concerning South Carolina Crime Victims Compensation
Upon request, intervening on behalf of victims with creditors, employers, etc.
Establishing contact with victims of crime and identifying their needs
Providing crisis intervention and support to victims of crime
Providing educational materials concerning victims’ rights and adult and child victimization
Increasing the community’s awareness of the victim assistance program to encourage timely reporting and assistance
Intervening in crisis situations using tact, discretion, compassion and good judgment
Crime never pays, especially for stupid criminals. Nellie happened to know both men who assaulted her from around the neighborhood. She was able to give police their names and descriptions, as well as positively identify them from photo lineups. After they were caught, DNA evidence was also positively matched.
Both men are currently jailed at the Greenville County Detention Center, bond denied, awaiting trial.