City makes commitment following local, national sex abuse cases

Darkness to Light officials say they've seen the number of trainings triple since Skip ReVille was arrested in October. (Provided)

By Natalie

CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCIV) -- Some major Lowcountry entities have taken large steps to address child sexual abuse prevention and awareness in the last few months. It's all in light of two high profile cases.

Jerry Sandusky, the former Penn State coached convicted of child sex abuse and Skip ReVille, who confessed to molesting dozens of young boys in the Lowcountry area, have become well-known names in this community. Darkness to Light's director of programs, Cindy McElhinney says due to the attention towards the cases, they've seen a huge increase in interest of their programs locally.

"Our phones are actually ringing where as before it sort of felt we were trying to push prevention. For the first time, this issue is on people's radar. So, they're calling us saying 'what can we do?'" she said.

According to the organization, since the ReVille case came to light in October of last year, it's seen the number of training's triple. D2L officials say they trained more than 29,000 people in the Lowcountry and are close to having 50 Partners in Prevention in our area, including Charleston County School District and the Charleston Battery soccer team and camps.

Charleston Battery president Andrew Bell says they've been working with Darkness to Light for several years to get all of their workers trained. They have many youth soccer programs and a summer camp. They've even trained the team players, since they'll interact with children after the games at times.

"We feel the pain within our community when bad things happen as well. So, whatever we can do to be proactive and be responsive and do the best we can, we will do that," Bell said.

One of the latest entities to join the list of D2L partners is the City of Charleston. Training and employee relations manager Dinin Lopez says around nine months ago, right on the heels of the Penn State investigation, they made a major commitment and signed up as Partners in Prevention.

"No organization can be too prepared when it comes to prevention in the first place and then second place, when it does happen, it's recognized and reported properly," Lopez said.

As Partners in Prevention, they'll put a policy in place, train staff and volunteers on how to prevent and recognize child sex abuse and conduct background screenings.

"It really is a huge commitment. They've committed to training all 1,700 employees of the city, and that is really amazing commitment," McElhinney said. "They're paving the way."

The City of Charleston, Darkness to Light and the Dee Norton Lowcountry Children's Center are working together now to develop guidelines and a national model for communities.

Other organizations currently in the process of becoming partners include the Mount Pleasant Recreation Department, MUSC Wellness Center Camp and Trident Hospital staff.

D2L's August campaign will feature many opportunities to learn about becoming Partners in Prevention, Stewards of Children, free trainings, educational events, and more.

On August 18th, the Charleston Battery is teaming up for a night with D2L where they hope to raise awareness.

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