COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - A woman who was violently assaulted in Five Points two years ago is working to help other victims overcome sexual assault.
Mariah was kidnapped and brutally assaulted when she was in her early 20s. She says she’s still working to overcome what she went through that night and now wants to help others who may need help moving forward.
Mariah was forced into a secluded area of Saluda Avenue around 2:30 a.m. on Nov. 8, 2017. She was sexually assaulted and had to receive treatment from injuries to her face after being hit several times.
Darius Nelson, 26, was arrested the next day. He later pleaded guilty to criminal sexual conduct in the first degree, kidnapping, and assault and battery of a high and aggravated nature. He is now serving out a 25-year prison sentence.
David Toole, a friend of Mariah and owner of BlueTile Skateboards, describes seeing her that night, shortly after the attack.
“She did not look like herself and she didn’t want to go to the hospital," he said. “I had to convince her to go. You don’t want somebody to get away with something like that.”
Mariah added: “When you go through that, there’s just so much going on in your head, you don’t know what to do. You just want to go home and do nothing. You don’t want to talk about it. You don’t want anybody to know.”
She says it’s an experience that can leave you feeling totally lost and helpless.
In the aftermath of the attack, Mariah says her body is completely numb on one side from nerve damage, and that she’s still undergoing physical and mental health therapy.
Over the last several months, she has focused her attention on creating a card which offers tips on what to do next if you’ve been assaulted.
Reading from the card, Mariah says it begins by asking, “'Has it been zero to five days since the sexual assault? And, if so, I encourage you to go to the ER’ -- and a huge thing for victims that they need to know is that insurance is not required.”
The card encourages victims to take advantage of the services provided at local hospitals, including undergoing a rape kit.
“Just over the last year, she’s taken that and turned it into something to be more powerful rather than something that hurts her or brings her down,” Toole said.
The card is not just for survivors of recent assaults. There’s also information on ways to receive free mental health services no matter when the attack happened.
Mariah hopes the cards will be made available throughout college campuses and to the general public. She has also started a social media page where she offers support to other survivors found at www.facebook.com/addedtothefamilyofus.