The Cumbee Center to Assist Abused Persons is bringing a new event to the Aiken area to raise awareness about sexual assault. The Many Faces of Sexual Assault, a two-day conference, will be held Sept. 12 and 13 at Aiken Technical College on Jefferson Davis Highway in Graniteville.
The free symposium is limited to 200 participants and as of Monday afternoon, there were no openings available. However, there probably will be some cancellations, according to Sherry Cheatham, the Cumbee Center’s assistant director.
Anyone interested in attending the conference, she said, should call the Cumbee Center at 803-649-0480 or go to the organization’s website, www.cumbeecenter.org, and click the link to “SA Conference” at the bottom of the home page.
The conference will begin each day with registration and breakfast at 8:30 a.m. The Cumbee Center is using a grant from South Carolina’s Department of Health and Environmental Control to fund the symposium. Cheatham said the event’s program is designed to educate mental health and social workers, police officers, lawyers, physicians, ministers and the general public.
“To get the information out there is our primary purpose,” added Cheatham, who is a licensed professional counselor. “We want to give people more knowledge so they can deal with this issue more appropriately.”
Cheatham and Nola Grant, who was 2012’s Miss Black South Carolina, will speak on the opening day. “Overcoming the Face of Shame” is the title of their presentation.
“She is an adult, college-age sexual assault survivor, and I am a childhood sexual abuse survivor,” Cheatham said. “But we’re not free and clear because recovery is a lifelong process. We’re going to talk about some of the things we experienced. I’m going to discuss my family’s response and the community’s response.”
Dr. Tony Jones of the North Carolina Coalition Against Sexual Assault will speak on the opening day about how faith communities and sexual assault advocates can work together to help sexual assault survivors. On the second day, “he is going to talk about engaging men and boys in the response to sexual assault,” Cheatham said.
Other speakers during the conference will include Lynn Clark of Aiken Regional Medical Centers and Gayle Lofgren, Anne Laver, Mary Helen Simons and Kimberly Sawyer of the Child Advocacy Center of Aiken County.
“We also have someone coming from Fort Gordon to talk about the military’s response to sexual assault,” Cheatham said.
Dede Biles is a general assignment reporter for the Aiken Standard and has been with the newspaper since January 2013.