40 years of Offering Help Started with One Rape Victim
October 2023 Issue
By Edwina Hoyle
Photos submitted by Hopeful Horizons
Hopeful Horizons is the local children’s advocacy, domestic violence, and rape crisis center. They strive to create safer communities by changing the culture of violence and offering a pathway for healing. Hopeful Horizons is celebrating 40 years of making a difference this year.
From their humble beginnings in 1983, the organization has evolved and expanded through mergers between the Rape Crisis Center (later called Hope Haven), The Children’s Advocacy Task Force and Citizens Opposed to Domestic Abuse (CODA), and the Children’ Advocacy Program. Hopeful Horizons' CEO Kristin Dubrowski has worked in the victim service field since 1999 and has served the organization for 19 years. Kristin said, “There is a strong, unified organizational culture, and we use a holistic approach in serving our clients.”
“Our society has a culture of violence that manifests in sexual assault, domestic violence and child abuse,” Kristin explained. “Things change slowly. How can we stop the cycle of violence? We haven’t solved it, but we’re talking about it. Raising awareness and prevention is the key. We start with the youth, teaching what they should expect from relationships. To see their attitudes change is very cool, and so is knowing they will be change agents.”
The Rape Crisis Center was formed in 1983 by survivor, Shirley Parsons, to support victims of sexual assault. Today, Hopeful Horizons’ services include a 24-hour support line, emergency shelter for domestic violence and transitional housing, response to sexual assault victims at the hospital, and counseling for adults and all clients, including children. Along with law enforcement, lethality assessments are done with domestic violence victims, and in partnership with the Medical University of South Carolina, forensic medical evaluations are conducted with abused children, who also receive trauma treatment and counseling from Hopeful Horizons’ therapists. Staff attorneys help with custody issues, protective orders, and navigating the criminal justice system. To keep up with the times, the organization also provides technology safety planning to prevent tracking and cyber stalking. Outreach, education, and prevention are also a top priority. Services are provided free of charge.
Shirley Parsons is proud of Hopeful Horizons and grateful for the expansion of victim services and the cultural shift in attitudes since her rape in 1983 when she was 52 years old. “Back in the ‘80s, it was taboo to talk about it, and there was a lot of victim blaming.” Today, at 92 years of age, she still helps at Hopeful Horizons. “Now, every time there’s a new crop of volunteers, I tell my story. I tell them when the victim wants to talk, don’t hush them up, let them talk. It’s important for survivors to talk.”
Shirley’s story started on January 11, 1983, when a man hid in her house and raped her at knife point. “I feel like that date is tattooed on my arm,” she said. “I can’t let go. Even now I look over my shoulder.”
The rapist had a stocking over his face, held a knife, and threatened to kill her. “He raped me, then took a scarf off my dresser and tied my hands. He tied my ankles with panty hose, stuffed a pin cushion in my mouth and threw me in a closet. His parting words were: ‘If you ever report this, I’ll come back and kill you. You’re a lucky bitch tonight.’ I was in shock and couldn’t scream.”
Shirley managed to loosen the scarf and release her hands. She removed the pin cushion, but her ankles were tied so tightly they were bleeding, so she hobbled to the phone and called the police.
“I never stayed in my home another night. He stole my car, and that allowed the police dog to sniff all the way to his house. He left one fingerprint on my window.” He was arrested, and Shirley learned she was his third victim.
Her gynecologist was on duty in the emergency room that evening. “He told me I did nothing wrong and to talk to my friends. A guilt feeling just washes over you. A security guard I knew came over to speak to me, and I lowered my eyes. After he walked away, my doctor told me to never lower my eyes again because what happened to me wasn’t my fault. He also told me that being murdered is worse than being raped.”
Faith, friends, and her church helped her survive the trauma, but surprisingly, the assault became her inspiration. Her courage and resolve gave her the grit to work with the police, her church buddies and friends to start the Rape Crisis Center of the Lowcountry.
“I’ll never be the same person, but what helps me now is knowing that victims are being helped at Hopeful Horizons. Hopeful Horizons is my therapy.”
Kristin Dubrowski said her goal is to eradicate the
culture of violence: “I know it’s pie in the sky, but ultimately,
that’s what we work toward. I hope it will happen in my lifetime.”
Hopeful Horizons—Last Year’s Numbers:
• Served 740 children and 471 adults
• Conducted more than 2,100 counseling sessions with children and adults
• Assisted 252 victims/survivors with civil legal services
• Held 379 forensic interviews with children
• Sheltered 175 women and children
A staff of 55 is committed to the organization’s core values of compassion, collaboration, and a commitment to excellence. The team is highly trained in their specialties, and they have a national reputation for excellence in delivering evidence-based, victim-centered services.
Each October, for Domestic Violence Awareness Month, Hopeful Horizons partners with local libraries to raise awareness through the Wedding Gown Project. The display features gowns adorned with the names of South Carolina residents who lost their lives over the past year at the hand of someone they loved, most frequently their husband or significant other. Visit your local library to see some of the dresses and the impact domestic violence has on people in our communities.
For more information about Hopeful Horizons, visit HopefulHorizons.org, or call 843-524-2256. If you’re looking for help, call their 24-hour support line: 843-770-1070.