S.C. organizations serving crime victims to receive more than $31 million in grants, AG Wilson announces

Attorney General Alan Wilson, alongside dozens of advocates, law enforcement partners, and some...
Attorney General Alan Wilson, alongside dozens of advocates, law enforcement partners, and some local solicitors, announced the disbursement of the state and local funds at a press conference on Wednesday.(Nick Neville)
Published: Sep. 13, 2023 at 7:19 PM EDT
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WEST COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - More than $31 million in grant money will soon be in the hands of victims’ services organizations across South Carolina to further their mission to serve the most vulnerable in the community.

Attorney General Alan Wilson, alongside dozens of advocates, law enforcement partners, and some local solicitors, announced the disbursement of the state and local funds at a press conference on Wednesday.

Wilson said that the announcement was meant to provide hope to crime victims.

“You may be sitting at home feeling alone, feeling isolated, feeling victimized,” he said. “While the abuse or the crime may have ended, the process seems to go on and on and on and you’re feeling alone, and I’m here today to tell you you are not alone.”

Referencing the group standing behind him, Wilson said there are various state agencies and local nonprofits “who exist to serve and support you.”

He emphasized the importance of lifting up the powerful work that these organizations do every day and ensuring that they are well-funded.

Awards to Midlands groups and nonprofits total more than $13 million.

Richland County is receiving 14 grants totaling $3.14 million, while $2 million will go toward Lexington County organizations.

Orangeburg and Sumter County each will receive 3 grants, totaling $277,000 and $195,000, respectively.

Two of the organizations receiving the highest amounts in the Midlands are Pathways to Healing, a rape crisis center based in Columbia, and Sistercare, which supports survivors of domestic violence and their families.

Both groups offer 24/7 counseling and legal advocacy to victims and say this money will allow them to help more people, and ensure that the voices of survivors are heard.

“South Carolina continues to be one of the top states in the nation for the rate of domestic violence, and we’re out here every day working to provide services and to stop that intergenerational cycle of violence to make our community a safer and healthier place to live,” Leah Wicevic, Sistercare’s Executive Director, said.

Sistercare serves five counties, and approximately 4,000 people yearly.

Wicevic said these funds will deliver more resources for direct services, emergency shelter, and team outreach, among other things.

Pathways to Healing is led by a survivor, Rebecca Lorick, who spoke at the press conference about her journey to break free from an abusive relationship as a teenager, and the impact that a victims’ service organization had on her life.

“Without the supportive services that I received from a victims’ service agency, I know that I would not be alive, and my son would not be alive today,” she said.

For those who may find themselves in a similar situation, Lorick said there are people in the community who understand the fear that they have.

In her case, the fear of her abuser harming her family kept her “stuck” in the situation.

“We are here, we believe you, we support you, all you need to do is come forward and talk with us,” Lorick said. “We’re never going to force you to do anything you are not comfortable with. We don’t make people report to law enforcement if they don’t feel safe doing that, but people are here to help. One person in my story really made a difference in my life, and it was life-changing for me because she wasn’t judgmental. So if anybody is out there and needs the support, we’re here to support you, and we’re here to help you. All you need to do is just call.”

The grant funding represents more than 65 percent of the Pathways to Healing budget.

Without it, the nonprofit would have to close its doors, Lorick said.

The grant money also includes a new, $10 million program appropriated by the state legislature last year that is intended to bolster the federal funds.

The victims’ funding received unanimous, bipartisan support.

“I’ve only been a senator for three years, but part of the joy of being a senator and having a place at the table is being able to vote on the money and the budget and decide where it goes in the state,” Sen. Penry Gustafson, (R) Kershaw, said. “It’s a huge responsibility, and I think this needs to be part of our responsibility.”

Gustafson said this work is personal to her because she lost her Troy to gun violence in 2004, and credited grief counseling services for helping her family through a difficult time.

78 percent of the money comes from federal grants, with the rest from state funds.

There are four different types of grants: the one-time funding from legislators, which are known as Supplemental Allocation for Victims Services (SAVS) grants, Victims of Crime Act (VOCA) grants, Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) grants, and State Victim Assistance Program (SVAP) grants.

The federal grant money comes from federal fines and penalties, not taxpayers, and does not add to the national debt.

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