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Advocates, survivors rally at state capitol for sexual assault victims

Published: May. 12, 2022 at 8:52 AM EDT|Updated: May. 12, 2022 at 4:28 PM EDT
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COLUMBIA, S.C. (WCSC) - Two groups are advocating for sexual assault victims at the State House at a rally prompted by a recent South Carolina sexual assault case that made national headlines.

The South Carolina Victim Assistance Network and the South Carolina Coalition Against Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault and others will gather at the State House at 9:30 a.m.

The action was inspired by the sexual assault case against Bowen Turner, who was originally accused of sexually assaulting three teenage girls.

While out on bond for one of the charges, he allegedly violated the terms of his house arrest more than 50 times, and later pleaded guilty to assault and battery in one of the cases.

A charge in one of the other cases was dropped as a result of the guilty plea and prosecutors dropped the remaining charge after the victim’s death.

A judge sentenced Turner to five years of probation and without a requirement of having to register as a sex offender, SCVAN spokesperson Nicole McCune said.

“The Bowen Turner case demonstrates, yet again, how the criminal legal system can fail victims and survivors of sexual assault,” SCCADVASA Executive Director Sara Barber said. “It also highlights the importance that individuals who handle these cases receive adequate training. We stand with SCVAN, victim service providers, and allies across South Carolina in effecting real, tangible changes to ensure victims are able to heal and seek justice on their own terms. We also encourage continued investment of time and resources in alternative options for victims, including restorative justice.”

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Thursday morning’s rally is expected to include sexual assault survivors and victims’ advocates.

The groups hope to pressure the state’s General Assembly to focus attention on the need to handle crimes from what SCVAN calls a “more trauma-informed and victim-centered approach.”

“South Carolina has some of the strongest rights in the country when it comes to victims’ rights,” SCVAN Legal Director Sarah Ford said. “But laws don’t mean anything for crime victims unless they are asserted and enforced. It is critical that victims know they have significant rights, and victims know there are organizations like the South Carolina Victim Assistance Network to believe, support, and represent them. We encourage survivors, their family members, victim service providers, and other interested community members to join us.”

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