Police: Sexual trauma services employees threatened with rape, bombing ahead of cancellation of walk

Police: Sexual trauma services employees threatened with rape, bombing ahead of cancellation of walk

COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - The Forest Acres Police Department is investigating threatening phone calls made to a local organization days before its biggest fundraiser was set to take place.

Police say Sexual Trauma Services of the Midlands received a threatening phone call on Tuesday on its 24/7 hotline from an anonymous number. Police said the caller threatened sexual violence against its employees, degraded the organization and threatened violence at their workplace office.

As a result, Executive Director Mary Dell Hayes decided to cancel the 10th annual Walk A Mile In Their Shoes event scheduled for Thursday.

“Your right to feel safe is just as important as your right to be safe,” she said. “We know that in light of the calls we’ve received, even if we felt like law enforcement could keep us safe, it wasn’t respectful of those feelings.”

Forest Acres Police said they offered additional security at the walk along with several other law enforcement agencies, but Hayes made the decision to cancel the walk, which usually starts at the state house. At this point in the investigation, police said the annual walk does not appear to be a target of the threats.

Several “mini-walks” took place Thursday to show support and solidarity with survivors of sexual violence. The Richland County Sheriff’s Department hosted a walk in its parking lot.

“We’re going to continue to be out here so anybody who makes those threats...we’re going to find them they’re going to get arrested they’re not going to stop us from supporting this great organization and victims of sexual assault,” Sheriff Leon Lott said.

The South Carolina Department of Corrections also held a walk with several hundred of its employees. Executive Director Brian Stirling led the way in a pair of white heels.

“I’m in a lot of pain right now but I got another loop to go so you can ask me when I’m done but this, not a good thing to see this is not graceful at all,” Stirling said.

Peggy McMaster, South Carolina’s first lady, also took part in the DOC’s walk.

“We got trouble in this country and it’s just good we’re doing things like this to raise awareness maybe it’ll help some people not to do some things,” McMaster said.

The Forest Acres Police Department is actively investigating the case.

Sexual Trauma Services of the Midlands said its goal is to raise $100,000 as a result of this year’s walk. Last year, it raised $97,000. If you’re interested in donating, visit www.stsm.org.

Copyright 2019 WIS. All rights reserved.