By David Dykes, The Greenville News
Gov. Nikki Haley said Monday she was abused as a girl by a child-care provider, offering a rare, personal disclosure of her growing up meant to underscore the challenges any community faces in protecting its children.
"It doesn't matter your background, it doesn't matter your education, it doesn't matter the wealth of your family," Haley said. "Every child is subject to child abuse. And it was a day-care provider that was taking care of me."
Haley described the abuse in her book Can't Is Not an Option: My American Story.
But in Greenville, she said she was recounting what happened to illustrate that the threat is real, and any city and town must come to grips with that reality.
In the small town where she lived, her mother sensed something was wrong, Haley said.
"I never wanted to go," Haley said. "But she didn't know quite what it was and didn't think anything of it."
"One day I came home and I had a lot of bruises and a lot of issues," Haley said.
When her mother confronted the couple taking care of her, "they packed up and they left," Haley said. "We never got to deal with it."
Haley spoke at a press conference at Greenville Health System, where community and health officials discussed a recent report, titled Silent Tears, that calls for child sex-abuse cases to be resolved more quickly.
Thirteenth Circuit Solicitor Walt Wilkins, responsible for prosecution in Greenville and Pickens counties, has told GreenvilleOnline.com his office is dealing with an increasing number of cases involving criminal sexual conduct with children.
Wilkins said he wants more prosecutors to handle those cases and is urging more education and prevention, additional child-advocacy centers and training.
The Silent Tears report came out earlier this year and was the result of a yearlong review by the National Child Protection Training Center of child sex abuse in South Carolina. The report says coordination and training are key to successfully prosecuting child abuse cases.
The study found that most of those directly involved in handling child sexual abuse cases have no undergraduate or graduate training directly dealing with child abuse cases.
The report said that in many respects, the child-protection system in South Carolina is among the best in the nation.
Still, Haley issued a call to action in the Upstate, saying "When it happened to me, my parents didn't know what to do. They didn't know who to go to. No one knew how to handle it."