Aiken — Truck drivers who are victims of sexual violence can now park their 18-wheelers at a local shelter.
The Cumbee Center to Assist Abused Persons, the first shelter in South Carolina to accept male victims of sexual violence committed by women, has moved their center to 254 Beaufort Street.
Beaufort Street is still the main truck route in Aiken to this day.
In an interview with the Aiken Standard, executive director Susan Selden said that this is the first time in the group’s history they have moved. From its beginnings in 1981 until this week, the Cumbee Center was located in downtown Aiken.
“We’ve been cramped in that little office since before I got there, with very narrow hallways for clients to walk down,” Ms. Selden told the Standard. “…We wanted them (clients) to have more privacy, and this fall, we hired more staff because of increased demand and we had to have somewhere to put them.”
That little office was on Lancaster Street, a place where trucks – and especially thru trucks – are prohibited from accessing and have been prohibited from accessing since before the Cumbee Center’s existence.
Ms. Selden noted that she has seen a marked rise in clients, especially male clients who were abused by spouses and female clients who were sexually assaulted or raped.
“They’re showing up to the hospital, and then we provide services after their hospital (visit), after their rape kits,” said Ms. Selden. “So, there’s been a definite increase in our hospital advocacy. We’ve seen more domestic violence clients. We’ve done more orders of protections this year than I remember, so we’ve had to hire additional staff.”
The Cumbee Center hired three staff members right away in October with its Victims of Crime Act Grant from the state’s Attorney General Office. Ms. Selden said she’s looking to hire additional staff members by the week ending on January 27, 2018.
The services offered at the organization’s new location will be the same as the previous location. That includes crisis care, counseling, case management and assistance with filing orders of protection.
Inside is Ms. Selden’s office, a little more than half a dozen offices for staff members, a kitchen and storage space, as well as a large conference area that can be used for trainings and community collaboration meetings.
Ms. Selden, who has been in her role since 2015, said she is excited about the move.
“I feel like we’ve gotten more awareness out which is one of the original goals … and we’re seeing more people come out,” she said. “I don’t know if theres an increase in violence. I think they know they can get good service here. Hopefully, they trust us.”
And although there is still a lot of moving taking place, Ms. Selden said, “We are officially open now. …This is the location to come to.”
Like all other businesses in the city, The Cumbee Center will go through a zoning process before signage goes up, but for those who still need assistance finding the location, it is located near Probation Parole and Pardon Services, as well as the Aiken County Health Department. Unlike with the previous location, The Cumbee Center is now very easily accessible for truck drivers who may need to find a place to go and get out of a violent relationship.
It is also roughly a half mile from the new Aiken Department of Public Safety headquarters – also located on Beaufort Street.
There is also signage at the old location about the move.
The Cumbee Center also operates confidential emergency shelters in Aiken, Allendale, Barnwell, Edgefield and McCormick counties. If you or someone you know needs assistance and/or access to the shelter, you can call the center’s hotline numbers. They are 803-259-4451 and/or 803-649-0480.