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When the unthinkable happens, there is someone who will help.

Carrie Nettles is a chaplain and victim services specialist at the Julie Valentine Center. She is an ordained minister with a master of divinity degree from the Lutheran Theological Southern Seminary. Nettles began her work at the center in January and set a milestone. The Julie Valentine Center is the first child advocacy center in the United States to have a chaplain on its team.

“Julie Valentine is a child advocacy center and it’s a rape crisis center,” Nettles said. “We are set up to serve survivors of child sexual abuse and adult sexual assault.”

In addition to on-site services, the center offers a 24-hour hotline.

“They can call in the midst of trauma or then can call to talk about a thing that happened 45 years ago,” Nettles said.

The center serves Greenville and Pickens counties.

“The children who come through here are referred by DSS or law enforcement to have a forensic interview,” Nettles said. “Those therapists are trained to interview children in ways that are not leading.”

The center has a child-friendly atmosphere and provides services at one location, including working with two forensic child abuse pediatricians for medical needs.

“The child is not retraumatized by having to retell the story at the pediatrician’s office, at a law enforcement office, at DSS – over and over,” Nettles said.

But having a chaplain on staff is groundbreaking. Nettles is part of a multi-disciplinary team that includes representatives from DSS, law enforcement, medical staff and more. She meets spiritual needs, encourages spiritual strength and helps see where spiritual abuse might be present.

“The design for any chaplain is we aren’t the long-term faith leader in someone’s life,” she said. “We stand in the gap. Some families have wonderful faith groups where they are getting nourished and loved and they don’t need to see me necessarily.”

Research indicates that many abuse victims are spiritually impacted in addition to their physical and emotional trauma. Nettles said those issues can get at the heart of a person’s identity.

“Our goal is to offer hope and healing to survivors of sexual abuse. Having access to a chaplain is important for people to really process and wonder, to interrogate their faith in general," she said. "Some people might say, 'I’m angry at God.' Others might wonder, 'What does this mean about who I am?' I provide a safe space for those questions.”

Nettles hopes to spread the word about the center’s 24-hour hotline and the need to believe victims when they say they have been assaulted and abused. Children, if they lie about abuse, are more likely to say it did not happen, Nettles said.

“We attend to recent and past issues,” she said. “Any parent thinking about their own abuse that happened years ago, and someone who sees concerning signs in their own child, they can call. My hope for any reader is to know the importance of believing someone – your child, your friend, your love one – when they say this thing happened.”

For 24-hour crisis services, call 864-467-3633. To learn more about the Julie Valentine Center, visit http://www.julievalentinecenter.org.

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Read or Share this story: https://www.upstateparent.com/story/news/health/2017/03/01/sexual-abuse-unthinkable-happens-julie-valentine-center/98493300/