Helping Victims/Survivors Through Advocacy
Sarah McKenzie is the domestic violence/sexual assault victim advocate for Hopeful Horizons. In her role, she connects victims/survivors with resources at Hopeful Horizons and other organizations and she is also able to serve as a liaison with the legal process for any court cases related to the domestic violence or sexual assault.
She provided a “mission moment” at the May meeting of the Hopeful Horizons Board of Directors and we thought you’d be interested in what she shared.
When Sarah first meets with a victim/survivor, she listens to the individual’s story and asks what the victim/survivor would like to see happen and what their goals are. She’ll refer the victim/survivor to the counseling team and legal team at Hopeful Horizons for additional services.
Telling the story of domestic violence or sexual assault can be very difficult and emotional, so Sarah will often sit with the victim/survivor as they tell their story to the 14th Solicitor’s Office staff to be a familiar face. Sarah works closely with the victim advocates at the Solicitor’s Office.
Additionally, for Spanish-speaking victims/survivors, Sarah can assist in translating. Working with law enforcement, prosecutors, translators and others can be intimidating and scary for a non-English speaker so Sarah is able to ease their fears. Having an advocate from outside the “system” helps victims feel more comfortable.
The domestic violence cases seen by victim advocates at Hopeful Horizons and the 14th Solicitor’s Office are classified as DV first, second and third degree, and DVHAN (domestic violence of the highest aggressive nature). DV third is considered the least lethal in the eyes of the law. Sadly, we are seeing more and more of the most violent domestic violence cases in the Lowcountry so far in 2022.
For more information on the law regarding domestic violence, visit:
Restraining Orders: What is the legal definition of abuse in South Carolina? | WomensLaw.org
One of the more complicated parts of Sarah’s job is working with victims who may actually be a perpetrator in the criminal case. In some cases, victims are arrested for assault after defending themselves against the actual perpetrator. You may have heard the phrase “mutual abuse” recently in the Depp-Heard trial. NBC interviewed Ruth Glenn, CEO of the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (NCADV) about this concept and shared her thoughts here: Experts question the phrase 'mutual abuse' after testimony in Depp-Heard trial (nbcnews.com)
Sarah and other members of the Hopeful Horizons team are also available to accompany sexual assault victims/survivors to a hospital visit after an assault.
The most rewarding part of Sarah’s job? Seeing a victim/survivor following through and calling Sarah to ask for Hopeful Horizons’ help.
If you need Hopeful Horizons’ services, please call our 24/7 support line at 843-770-1070.