CHARLESTON, SC (WMBF) - When the unimaginable happens, one South Carolina school is leading the way to help victims of mass violence.
We're not just talking about active shooter situations like the one in Las Vegas last year that left 58 people dead and hundreds more hurt. Its work will also focus on incidents like the truck attack in New York City that killed eight and injured a dozen others.
A team of people at the Medical University of South Carolina is spearheading efforts to change the way our nation responds to these kinds of events.
"People tend to focus on the first few days and weeks, but actually, it can last a lifetime for those affected by it," Dr. Dean Kilpatrick, the director of the National Crime Victims Research and Treatment Center, said about the trauma and impact acts of mass violence can have on victims. "You don't forget about it. You don't go back to what life was like before."
Now more than ever, Dr. Kilpatrick said more resources are needed to help victims of mass violence.
"They've changed our standards for our ability to feel safe, live our lives, do the kinds of things we want to do," Dr. Kilpatrick said. "It has a profound effect on our society. A lot of us are living in fear."
Just a couple of months ago, Kilpatrick and his team were awarded an $18 million grant to develop a Mass Violence and Victimization Resource Center.
Kilpatrick said this project will put our fears into perspective, help experts understand the risks and the probability of you actually being caught up in an act of mass violence, and make sure our nation's first responders and other agencies are prepared to help victims recover.
"It has a mission of literally changing and improving the nation's capacity to respond to these things. The vision is: every victim, every family member should have access to absolutely first-rate services that are provided by people that understand victims, respectful of victims, and who collaborate with others to meet their needs," Dr. Kilpatrick said. "That's really ambitious, but we think the victims deserve no less than that."
The center's work will also focus on acts of criminal negligence that affect a large group of people like the water contamination in Flint, Michigan.
While each case is different, they will be studied by experts who hope to figure out how to stop the next one from happening and who want to find out how to help those hurt or mentally scarred by these kinds of events.
"We can't necessarily prevent all of these, but maybe we should think about how to prevent more of them," Dr. Kilpatrick said. "We have an acceptance of violence. We will put up with some violence to be able to have our second amendment rights protected. I think it's a really complicated issue. In the mean time, we will be doing our best to mitigate some of the damage that happens when these mass violence incidents occur."
Dr. Kilpatrick said the Mass Violence and Victimization Resource Center will be a collaboration of experts and researchers and organizations and agencies from across the country.
He believes MUSC and the state of South Carolina were chosen for this project because of the caliber of professionals in the Palmetto State and the real-life experience many have had with the shooting at Mother Emanuel AME Church in Charleston.
On June 17, 2015, 9 parishioners' lives were taken as they gathered for a Bible study. It was an attack that rocked the nation because it demolished the security we once felt in our houses of worship.