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SC nonprofit partners with Amazon to offer safety tools to domestic violence, sexual assault survivors

Published: Oct. 13, 2021 at 8:38 PM EDT
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COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - One of the world’s largest companies is partnering with a local nonprofit to provide safety tools for up to 1000 South Carolina survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault.

In an effort to enhance survivor safety and provide them with added comfort, Amazon’s Ring is donating video doorbells and security cameras to the South Carolina Coalition Against Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault (SCCADVASA).

Amazon first approached the City of Columbia about the program, which has been launched in other cities as well. The mayor’s office then connected Amazon with SCCADVASA, which has statewide reach, and the partnership grew from a discussion of 200 device donations to 1000.

Sara Barber, SCCADVASA’s Executive Director, said these are “tremendous resources,” especially for those experiencing repeated harassment or stalking.

“I’ve been thinking a lot this Domestic Violence Awareness Month about the need for hope, how sometimes it can feel overwhelming, the grief and the pain that people live through,” she said. “And so for us, this is another step of hope. And I think that’s sort of the center of our work is we build prevention and intervention efforts to make this a safer community for everyone.”

Data from the Domestic Violence Policy Center released last month shows that 57 women statewide were murdered by men in 2019, making it the sixth-most dangerous state for women in the nation.

This study has been published for 22 years, and every year except one, South Carolina has been among the top 10 most dangerous states for women.

According to SCCADVASA, around 40,000 South Carolinians per year either call hotlines or access services through its 22 sexual assault and domestic violence direct service and advocacy programs.

“So to have a company come forward and offer these tools that we can offer on an individual basis as advocates work with survivors to find the safest path for them forward to their healing is a real boon and we’re really excited to be able to offer those tools to them,” Barber said.

Columbia Mayor Steve Benjamin said one of the world’s most recognizable companies investing in the community to protect survivors is a big deal.

“It’s a fantastic force multiplier that helps us use the power of automation and ai and advanced machine learning to keep people safe,” he said. “So using 21st-century technologies to defeat a problem that’s been with us since the beginning of time.”

The first shipment of devices arrives this week. SCCADVASA will distribute them to 12 of its member organizations. Each organization will then identify survivors who are already working with them on holistic planning services to assess whether one of these devices will amplify their unique safety needs.

The Hive Community Circle is one such organization. Chio Nuñez, the Hive’s Constituency Engagement Manager, said for her organization to be part of this initiative is incredible because many of the group’s current participants do not feel safe in their homes.

“I believe that a lot of survivors are going to feel safer being able to control who is outside their house,” she said.

Nuñez said everybody at the Hive is a survivor and understands “perfectly” what it is like to not feel safe in your house.

“And I believe that for instance when I was assaulted when I was 21 perhaps it would have been an incredible tool for me to know who was outside my house and to see specifically this tool in my phone in knowing that I was safe in controlling my own space,” she said. “It’s just another step towards breaking the cycle of violence in South Carolina.”

The tools will be available to survivors free of charge, with a Ring Protect Plan subscription for the life of each device included. Nuñez said this is one of the best parts of the program because many of the Hive’s survivors come from low-income communities.

In addition to donating the devices, Amazon’s Regional Policy Manager Joe Nolan announced a $20,000 donation to SCCADVASA to further extend the organization’s impact in the community and its ability to represent the needs of survivors.

“We are proud to support SCCADVASA in advancing their mission and commitment to building stronger and safer communities,” he said.

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