Darkness To Light

Circle of Light Gala

Although the organization is just six years old, Darkness to Light has grown into an international nonprofit focused on preventing sexual abuse by educating adults on how to protect children.

“The issue of child sexual abuse and the prevention of child sexual abuse is a cause whose time has come,” says Anne Lee, president and CEO of Darkness to Light.

Statistics make the clear argument that something needs to be done: one in four girls and one in six boys are sexually abused.

“What it takes are individuals, communities, and neighborhoods that are willing to wrap their heads around the realities of child sexual abuse,” she says.

When Lee first had the idea for Darkness to Light, the landscape of abuse prevention was minimal.

“When I started, I thought I’d be able to find a national organization, affiliate with them, bring them to Charleston, and go on with my life,” she says. But what she found nationally was groups focused on teaching children to say no.

“Do we really expect that a 5-year-old is going to be able to say no to a family friend or the church pastor?”

Federal funding for prevention campaigns was also limited, typically focusing on “Stranger Danger” programs. Those efforts are laudable in addressing a specific problem, Lee says, but “when we’re focusing on those stories, 93 percent of the stories out there go untold.”

So Lee began an education and implementation campaign to get adults looking for signs of abuse and ways they can protect their children.

“None of this stuff is rocket science,” she says.

The group has developed brochures, award-winning documentaries, marketing campaigns, and training programs, most through the assistance of sponsors, donors, and vendors. The nonprofit has major support from well-known partners, including CNN, Young & Rubicam, Time Inc., and Volvo Cars of North American. With facilitators in 37 states and four countries and more than 1 million unique visitors to the website annually, Darkness to Light has taken off.

Prior to November’s Circle of Light Gala, there were few opportunities to celebrate sexual abuse prevention, Lee says.

“It really was about taking the issue out of the closet,” she says. The event included specially-made kitchens off the main tent for 15 chefs and would have been impossible without the support from vendors, chefs, and local wait staff. The event included an amazing multi-media show with a hi-tech ligh show. Hosted by MTV personality and VJ Gregory Woo, guests included Emmy-nominated songwriter Daniel Mackenzie and 2006 Acadamy Award-nominated documentary filmmaker Amy Berg.

Planning is under way for the 2007 event and Darkness to Light is developing an ambitious three-year plan that would make Circle of Light Charleston’s first million-dollar fund-raiser within three years.

By the time the group reaches its 10th year, Lee says she wants to see Darkness to Light be to child sexual abuse what MADD is to drunk driving.

“We’ve got a lot of work, but I think the momentum is there,” she says.

Stay cool. Support City Paper.

City Paper has been bringing the best news, food, arts, music and event coverage to the Holy City since 1997. Support our continued efforts to highlight the best of Charleston with a one-time donation or become a member of the City Paper Club.