Prevent Child Abuse Pickens County Executive Director Gloria Morris wants to start a conversation about child abuse in the community.
Pickens County has the third highest rates of child abuse and neglect in the state, she said.
“With all the resources we have, that's just not acceptable,” Morris said.
“If we don't break the silence, we're never going to stop it,” she said. “We're never going to stop it.”
Morris and some the PCAPC staff were on-hand at Fox Carolinas “Celebrating the Carolinas” event
Tuesday morning at the J.B. “Red” Owens Complex, letting people know about some of the programs that PCAPC and The Parenting Place offer the community.
She pointed to the Penn State scandal as an example of how people can choose to ignore abuse and abusers.
“This has been going on for how long?” Morris asked.
She feels confident that once people acknowledge the problem in the area, they will step up to help stop it.
“I think there's too many good people in this county, that if they start hearing about how they can help, we can get some help for our families,” Morris said. “There's so much we can do if we would work together.”
Many don't realize how sexual abuse during childhood can lead to other problems, she said.
“60 to 70 percent of all of our teen moms are sexually abused,” Morris said. “So we want to say, 'Oh my gosh, these teen mothers,' but they don't realize, these young women were violated at an early age. Their sense of security, their sense of trust, their sense of sexuality, it was misskewed.”
Her organization's mission is to build relationships to prevent child abuse and neglect.
“That means stop it before it ever starts,” Morris said
The Parenting Place offers a number of programs aimed at creating healthy home environments and reducing child abuse and neglect, including Women in Need of Guidance and Support (WINGS) which provides one-on-one home visits to support women in building healthy relationships, parenting effectively, building life skills and gaining independence.
They also, in conjunction with Safe Harbor, offer counseling for domestic violence victims. Call Carrie Pettit at 864-467-1177, ext. 16 to make an appointment.
The Parenting Place is also offering Creating Opportunities for Developing Economic Success, Morris said.
“We do a financial stability plan for parents, to get their education, to become employed and to get a better living wage for their family,” she said.
“We're about problem solving,” she continued. “Can we find a solution, like no transportation? Why are so many people in poverty – there's no transportation in this county. We have so many moms that we visit on a weekly basis on our home visitation program and they want to finish high school, they want to get a GED, they want to all kinds of things, but our biggest problem is getting them to the centers, getting them to college.”
Abusers often want to keep their victims dependent on them and prevent them from learning necessary life skills.
“It's about control,” Morris said. “If you're a victim, you've been under the control of someone. You were told, 'I'm going to kill you (if you tell), I'm going to kill your family, I'm going to do this, I'm going to do that.' I'm sure Jerry Sandusky's victims were told all kinds of things that would happen if they ever told. And that's why we say, 'Break the silence.'”
She spoke of Stephanie Carter of Anderson, who died at the age of 4 in 2000 after years of abuse at the hands of her stepmother, who is serving a life sentence for her crimes.
“People saw her being hit by her stepmother and eventually that woman killed her,” Morris said. “But nobody reported it. Everybody let it go.”
The Parenting Place has partnered with Easley Church of God to offer a “Family Life Skills” group. The group meets on Wednesdays and is open to parents and grandparents with kids.
The group aims for parents and grandparents to support each other in creating a positive home environment for their families.
Food is served at 6pm and the group meets at 7pm.
There are a number of ways you can help The Parenting Place help families in our community.
Volunteer a few hours to answer phones, help clean the building, prepare mail-outs, etc.
The Parenting Place will offer volunteer training Monday July 30, from 6pm-8pm.
“It's great training,” Morris said. “We need to let folks understand how people are victimized and why they are victimized. It's great training, because it teaches families how to be safe for their family as well as to understand what happened to these victims, so we can be more empathetic and understanding instead of judging folks all the time.
Help prepare a meal for The Parenting Pace's monthly Baby Basics Class.
Have your business or church host a fundraiser.
Make a donation, either monetarily or of gently used baby items and clothing.
“We need donations of gently used clothes,” Morris said. “When folks come to our classes, they get to shop in our little clothing stores. We can provide diapers, household goods. If we have a domestic violence victim, we can set them up with dishes, pots and pans, everything they need. We do food for families.
“We do whatever we need to do,” Morris said. “We do any kind of comprehensive services to keep children safe.”
Call The Parenting Place at 864-898-5583 or stop by their office at 1899 Gentry Memorial Highway in Easley to find out how you can help.
“The Parenting Place is such a great educational place,” Morris said. “And we want people to know that we're here for all parents. As a mother of five, I know I had a lot of questions when I was a new mom, and as my kids were growing up.”