GREENVILLE, SC – At their largest fundraiser of the year, the Julie Valentine Center hosted more than a thousand guests Thursday at an informative luncheon to discuss sexual abuse and prevention.
Opening up to the audience was guest speaker Sasha Joseph Neulinger, a survivor and advocate who said as a child he was sexually abused by several people who were close to him.
“I didn’t feel like I could talk to adults because adults were the ones that broke my trust,” Neulingertold 7 News after the event.
Neulinger said that after opening up at a young age, he went in and out of the police station and hospital, trying to hold those who reportedly abused him accountable.
It was a journey for justice that took years.
“Having a child advocacy center with a trained professional who knows how to talk to children who have been traumatized, that’s the key to breaking through that stigma and that shame to get to the truth,” he said.
Neulinger is now a strong proponent of the Julie Valentine Center in Greenville, which helps children and adults get treatment, counseling and medical services, all in one place.
According to national statistics, 1 in 4 girls and 1 in 6 boys experience sexual abuse by the age of 18.
Greenville County has one of the highest rates of child maltreatment in the state, and one of the highest rates of reported sexual assault, explained Julie Valentine Center Executive Director Shauna Galloway-Williams.
“It’s our job to respond to those incidents when they do happen, but also educate our community and educate individuals from how to prevent this as well,” she said.
Neulinger said he hopes advocacy centers prevent what happened to him in his prolonged healing process, from happening to other children.
“If we’re facilitating safe environments for them to come forward, they’ll find the courage to do it and that’s how we’re going to stop this cycle.”