HORRY COUNTY, S.C. (WMBF) - The Rape Crisis Center of Horry County says they’ve noticed a significant increase in calls this summer.
This past July, there were 20 crisis calls to the hospital, double the calls received from last July. In August, they responded to 11 hospital calls and so far this month, the crisis center has received two calls. Those numbers don’t include crisis calls they received directly, either anonymously or simply asking for advice if they need to go to the hospital or if they should go to police.
Tracy Bowie, the center’s executive director, says they usually see an increase in calls during the summer months, as it’s the time of year when the Grand Strand becomes a popular place to visit. Bevelyn Mitchell, the center’s outreach and awareness coordinator, says it’s also typically a time when there’s more substance abuse. She noted the number one source of date rape is alcohol. Bowie says she believes more people are speaking out because of cultural consciousness and wants to remind people to stay vigilant to your surroundings at all times because sexual assault can happen anywhere at anytime.
“I think we just need to make sure that people try to be aware of their surroundings in situations that they can put themselves in. We also want to be careful not to blame people for that because sexual assault should not happen. It doesn’t matter where you are and what you’re doing and what you’re wearing or where you went - it shouldn’t happen," said Bowie.
From June 21 through Sept. 12, 2018, Horry County police say they’ve received 58 sexual assault reports. In that same time frame for 2019, they’ve counted 48 reports. Bowie says she believes the difference in the numbers could be because of the timing some of the cases are reported. Bowie says during the summer is when a majority of people are on vacation and tend to feel more carefree. However, she stresses the importance of everyone who lives in Myrtle Beach year-round to be extra vigilant of their surroundings.
Most recently, Bowie says technology has played a huge role in sexual assaults. Although it can be useful when in an emergency, social media gives predators another tool to seek their next victim. The one thing she wants everyone to know is it’s not the victim’s fault, but you need to know how to protect yourself.
“We always want to tell people it’s not your fault. It doesn’t matter what you were doing, where you were, what you were wearing. If you did not consent to sex, it is not your fault," said Bowie.
Officials say the biggest thing they notice is parents are scared to talk to their kids about the topic of sexual assault. They recommend parents have an open and honest conversation with their kids.
You can reach the 24-hour crisis hotline at 843-448-7273.