Sex abuse protest held at courthouse
"Perverts, keep your nasty hands off our children," said Dr. Kaye Smith, founder of ReClaim Global, Inc., which held the Monday morning protest outside the Hampton County Courthouse. "We have had enough, take your hands off our children."
A steady downpour did not dampen the message nor the spirits of the 100-plus "ReClaimers" who attended the event, nor the community members who rallied around them.
The Jacksonville, Fla.-based sex abuse victims' advocacy group was there not just in reaction to the allegations against former EMS resource officer Larry Heyward, who was indicted Thursday on charges of the molestation of an EMS student, they were also out in force to protest the way the school, the district, and some in the community handled reports of sexual abuse.
"We have not come to criticize, we have come here to help this community," said Smith, who founded the group in 2008. "We come in peace, we come with information, we come on behalf of the children ... We want to make you aware of what has happened to your children and encourage you to stand up and speak out. We are here for the children that Larry Heyward brutally violated and violently raped, over and over again, at Estill Middle School."
ReClaim's news releases hail Smith as a "nationally recognized specialist in sexual abuse counseling." Smith says she was called into this case by family members who asked her to do an Initial Trauma Assessment on the child.
"Leaders in this community, your people are crying out for help," Smith added. "ReClaim wants to be a voice to help stop sexual abuse."
Smith, who says she has helped expose more than 400 child molesters and reached out to more than 1,000 victims in 18 states since 1995, adds that she was contacted by family members of the 15-year-old male student who reported the incidents involving Heyward, and through her interviews with him she learned some valuable information about at least seven or eight additional juveniles, male and female, who may have been abused by the resource officer.
"I believe the testimony of these victims," she said. "There have been many victims of sexual abuse at Estill Middle School ... I believe, when we are done, that the victims at Estill Middle School will rival Jerry Sandusky's," she said, referencing the sex abuse scandal that rocked Penn State University last year.
"He took it out on my grandson!" an unidentified female voice yelled at one point during the protest.
Smith said that while she knew that Heyward had "alleged rights" and that he was innocent until proven guilty, she also called him a "sick and twisted man," a "mad beast," and a "deeply demented sociopath." She said that in addition to the first child that Heyward is accused of molesting, the SRO had "love nests" with multiple children within the school, adding that he may have videotaped the children. She also accused him of using a police Taser on the boy's body and genitals, among other explicitly descriptive acts she discussed.
Who else is to blame?
Smith spoke directly to the congregation of the Varnville Miracle of Deliverance, where Heyward was reportedly a pastor.
"I am deeply sorry that your pastor has the blood of innocent children on his hands. You have a duty to forgive him, but forgiveness is not greater than your responsibility to make sure he doesn't do this to any other children. I believe his victims go far beyond Estill Middle School. Ask others to come forward."
Smith challenged local law enforcement and criticized the justice system.
"I know there are good people in the Sheriff's Office and SLED, but why is this man on the streets? ... This community needs a hero. It needs a bunch of heroes."
Smith pointed a heavy finger at school and district officials, saying that when they heard about the allegations they humiliated the boy by playing audio evidence over and over again in front of him for various listeners. She even implied that others acted to aid Heyward commit crimes within EMS.
"You need to hunt deep and wide for the person who gave him such influence and autonomy. I believe that someone else was assisting him."
"When a parent sends a child to school, they should be protected from pedophiles. Someone should have been watching these children at Estill Middle School. How is it possible that a pervert could lock these children behind a door and rape them for two years? ... Why didn't someone knock on the door and take a peek inside?"
Smith added that while school officials were handed at least four invitations to the event, not one attended to address the group or the community on this issue. They also did not return messages left by The Guardian.
The next steps
Smith also encouraged the district to reach out to the affected families and the community at large.
"It's okay to apologize to these children."
Smith demanded that justice be done, that safety nets be mended, and called for the community to organize an assembly to address this issue.
"These children have walked away from this, but their souls have been murdered. We need to bring in some heavyweights on this."
Toward the end of the protest, Smith introduced Pete Strom, an attorney with Strom Law Firm, LLC, in Columbia who is representing the family of the 15-year-old. Strom is a former state prosecutor and former U.S. Attorney General for South Carolina.
Strom hinted strongly that a civil suit against Heyward and District 2 was coming, and urged any others who may have been abused by this suspect to step forward.
"We are hoping for a fair trail, and then we are going after their pocketbooks, and that's where it hurts," Strom said. "We are going to get money for these children. If you know someone who is a victim of this crime, get them to come forward. If you don't bring your child forward, and at least get some counseling, they will be affected by this for the rest of their lives."
Reactions to protest
One District 2 community member, who asked not to be named, spoke to The Guardian after the protest.
"I think it was beneficial," she said. "There are a lot of things that have been revealed and we will get to the bottom of it. I think several more people are involved, and it affects a lot more children. It's more than just Heyward."
"I applaud this organization and I appreciate her coming because Hampton County needs it. Especially the Estill community. Fair things should be done and the hurt of the children needs to be addressed."
Smith emailed the Guardian twice after the protest.
"We had many people express to the ReClaimers their appreciation for us coming. I had one lady tell me her son was a victim of Heyward's sexual abuse. She said when she reported it, Heyward blocked everything she did. So she moved out of the county. How sad is that?"
In the second email, she wrote that she had just gotten a call saying, "Another victim, one of them who was in the love nest at the Estill Middle School, is coming forward. They will bypass the local sheriff and go to SLED ... When I said this will rival Sandusky, I really believe it will."