Julie Valentine Center: Offering a Hand of Support to Survivors

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Two years ago, Jason received a life changing phone call from the Department of Social Services, informing him that his seven-year old daughter was in their custody after having been taken from her mother due to ongoing abuse and neglect. Jason knew that he had to get her back in his life so he immediately began the reunification process with a caseworker. The first step in reuniting the estranged father with his daughter was conducting a home study. This was done by the Department of Social Services.

It was also critically important that he and his daughter participate in therapy to address not only his daughter’s abuse and neglect, but also their separation and hopeful reunification.  At that point he was connected with Sarah Davis, a counselor at the Julie Valentine Center.

The Julie Valentine Center, formerly known as the Greenville Rape Crisis Center was founded by a group of volunteers in 1974.  It was the first rape crisis center established in South Carolina. The Center currently serves more than 2400 victims each year.

The organization’s current name is based on the real life story of an unidentified infant who was found deceased in Greenville in February 1990. The police named her Julie Valentine. Adopted by the community, her legacy has become a symbol of hope for those who have survived rape or child abuse. The Center’s mission is to end child abuse and sexual assault through prevention, education, advocacy, and support. It provides medical and forensic examinations, crisis support, and both group and individual counseling. Clients range from infants to adults.

With the help of the Center’s Sarah Davis, Jason and his daughter began getting to know each other. They started by writing honest letters to each other. After about five months of letter writing, the two began talking on the phone. At first, these conversations offered them the opportunity to start building their relationship and to answer difficult questions.  Eventually their calls focused more on their day-to-day activities.

After three months of phone calls therapy progressed and the two started Skyping. “It was weird at first, but it got better,” Jason recalls. They would talk about school and what she was going to be for Halloween. At this point, Jason’s wife, Jackie, became involved in the process. She wrote letters of her own and participated in the Skype calls.

Things were going well, so a 16-hour trip to Greenville from Oklahoma, where Jason and Jackie currently live, was planned. This would be the first time Jason had seen his daughter in five years. During the visit, she was able to share her story with her father.

“I have to hand it to the Julie Valentine Center. Without their help she may not have recovered from her trauma,” Jason reflected.

Their visit was a joyous occasion – the family had their own Christmas celebration. And Jason shared photos of family members who his daughter will meet when she is handed over and placed in their full custody.

Currently, Jason’s daughter is on the AB honor-roll at school. She has a lot of friends and is a great rule-follower. She has completed therapy and only goes to the Julie Valentine Center every couple of weeks. Her main focus is rebuilding her relationship with her father. Jason truly believes that this is all possible thanks to the help and support of Sarah Davis and the Julie Valentine Center. “We often hear about the bad side of foster care and how an overtaxed system does not serve our children well. However, being a part of the team of professionals who reunited a family after five years apart has been a very rewarding experience,” Sarah reflects.

The family’s custody hearing is rapidly approaching. They are optimistic about the outcome. Jason shares, “I am 99% positive that my daughter will be coming home with us before her eighth birthday in March. I’m so, very grateful for Sarah and the Julie Valentine Center. We were in good hands throughout the process. Thank you Sarah for helping my daughter heal and reconnecting us. ”

For more information about the Julie Valentine Center and the services it offers, visit www.julievalentinecenter.org, or call 864-331-0560. If you or a loved one has become a victim of abuse or assault, call the Center’s Crisis Hotline at 864-467-3633. Support the organization by attending their annual Luncheon on February 11 at the TD Convention Center.

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Debbie Nelson

Debbie Nelson is the president and founder of DNA Creative Communications, a woman-owned public relations and inspirational marketing firm for nonprofit organizations. Under Debbie’s leadership, in 2010 DNA founded Shine the Light Nonprofit Forums, an annual training program for Greenville nonprofits in partnership with the Community Foundation of Greenville County, the United Way of Greenville County and the Hollingsworth Funds. To support other nonprofits across the state, she also manages education programs for the South Carolina Association of Nonprofit Organization. As an a advocate for the nonprofit community, each month Debbie shares nonprofit stories in her Shine the Light columns in the Greenville Business Magazine and the Columbia Business Monthly. In addition she teaches nonprofit marketing at Clemson University to inspire and develop future nonprofit leaders. Debbie is a graduate of Leadership Greenville, Leadership South Carolina and the Riley Institute’s Diversity Leadership Initiative. She currently serves on the boards of the Greenville Area Development Corporation, the South Carolina Independent Colleges and Universities and the United Way of Greenville County.

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