Look behind the closed doors and help

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April highlights two important issues that affect our community – sexual assault and alcohol abuse.

The severity and impact of these issues may not be truly realized by most people since a lot of it occurs behind closed doors. However, sexual assault and alcohol abuse impact many people across the globe, including families here in Barnwell County.

With this month being designated as Sexual Assault Awareness Month as well as Alcohol Awareness Month, it’s a good time to shine a light on these two very important issues. Bringing awareness to these issues is one way that true change can take place.

Did you know that nearly one in five women will experience rape or attempted rape in their lifetimes? One in 10 children will also be victims of sexual assault.

Sexual assault is a traumatic event that can impact the victim’s life for years to come through post-traumatic stress disorder, eating disorders, depression, anxiety and even substance abuse.

The Cumbee Center to Assist Abused Persons is looking to bring awareness to the plight these victims go through in an effort to prevent sexual assault from happening in the future. That’s why they are sponsoring three “Walk a Mile in Her Shoes” walks this month, including one next Thursday, April 20 at 6 p.m. along the walking trail in Williston.

We encourage local residents from across Barnwell County to support this event where participants will walk in women’s shoes. We especially hope to see many men and boys attend.

Don’t have a pair of women’s shoes? The Cumbee Center has you covered because they have a collection of red high-heeled shoes in sizes large enough for men to wear.

It’s impossible to understand someone’s experience until you’ve walked a mile in their shoes, so let’s unite on April 20 for a good cause and to show those affected by sexual assault that we care about them.

Pre-registration can be done at www.eventbrite.com/e/williston-walk-a-mile-in-her-shoes-tickets-32820081748, but participants can also register onsite the day of the walk. Check-in will take place at 5:45 p.m. on the walking trail near Williston Town Hall.

Concerning alcohol abuse, the 2017 theme for Alcohol Awareness Month is “Connecting the Dots: Opportunities for Recovery, A comprehensive approach to address underage drinking.”

While people of all ages abuse alcohol, it’s especially important to prevent teens from drinking because research shows that the younger a person is when they begin consuming alcohol, the more likely they are to develop an addiction to alcohol.

Did you know that one in 10 deaths among adults (ages 20-64) occur due to an unbridled drinking habit? That fact comes from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

A 2016 Youth Behavior Risk Survey indicated 47.4 percent of high school students in our county have used alcohol in their lifetime while 23.6 percent had used alcohol regularly 30 days prior to taking the survey. The latter statistic is an indication of regular and frequent use of alcohol, such as binge drinking (five or more drinks in one night).

Some people try to downplay the severity of underage drinking, but the fact is this type of behavior can lead to serious consequences. This includes car accidents, alcohol poisoning, issues at school, behavioral changes and even death.

This is all preventable.

The temporary thrill of drinking, especially for those under the legal age of 21, is simply not worth the potentially lifelong – of life-ending – consequences.

That’s why parents need to take responsibility by making alcohol less accessible to young people. Also, it’s important for adults to model appropriate behavior around teens and children.

We also encourage parents to have a conversation with their children about the dangers of alcohol and drugs. Data shows the children of parents who do this are 50 percent less likely to use alcohol and drugs than those who don’t have these important conversations.

To those who do consume alcohol, please do not drive. Get a designated driver or call someone to pick you up.

If you or a loved one has become dependent on alcohol, contact the Axis I Center of Barnwell at 803-541-1245for information on its assessment and out-patient treatment services. The Axis I Center also provides prevention and education services to educate youth on the health harms and legal consequences of underage alcohol and other drug use.

Let’s show the world that sexual assault and alcohol abuse have no place in our community.

Together we CAN make a difference!