RIDGEVILLE, S.C. (WCBD) – The month of April is dedicated to raising awareness about sexual violence.
For some in South Carolina, the campaign hits close to home. The state is ranked among the worst in the nation for deadly violence against women.
Nefateri Smalls is a victims advocate who inspires others to get out of harm’s way after she spent years in fear.
“Literally, I escaped to tell,” said Smalls.
At 3-years old, her father murdered her mother, stabbing her to death as Smalls and her siblings watched.
“My family didn’t have a clue of how to deal with children who had seen something so traumatic,” Smalls said.
After her father was removed and sent to a mental institution, Smalls lived with relatives during her teenage years. At the age of 14, she again encountered abuse at the hands of someone in her own family.
“I had a father figure who was like an uncle to me,” she said. “One night, he came and asked me to babysit his children. It was on the way home when he sexually assaulted me.”
During high school, she turned to writing to help find strength and overcome the abuse.
“It was a saving grace,” Smalls said. “My safest place was in my own pen. There was no judgment.”
Her mission now — make sure others can escape abuse, find help, and have the tools to get out of abusive situations. She started a nonprofit for other victims called “Healing Hurts,” which supports those in the Tri-County region.
But Smalls said everyone can help — starting by listening.
“If what i went through did not break me down to nothing, then i had a responsibility and that was to tell the story.”
Not only does she have her own non-profit and a book, but now she is releasing a film about her story called “Escaped to Tell.” It premiers at 6PM on Friday in Summerville, and tickets can be purchased at the door or in advance.
To donate to the non-profit Smalls oversees, click on her website for more: