COLUMBIA, SC — The South Carolina Coalition Against Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault honored four individuals, including a newsroom staffer from The State, at its annual meeting held in Columbia on Thursday.
Noelle Phillips, a Metro reporter with 20 years of experience, was recognized as the coalition’s Media Professional of the Year at the meeting’s lunchtime awards program.
Founded in 1981, the coalition works to represent the needs of survivors and their families by making communities aware of issues, policy and legislation related to domestic violence and sexual assault.
Nominations for Thursday’s awards came from representatives from the 22 advocacy programs that comprise the statewide coalition.
“We’ve always been really impressed with Noelle’s commitment in making sure that sexual assault and domestic violence are portrayed in a compassionate way,” said the group’s executive director, Pamela Jacobs. “Even though she always remains impartial and reports everything fairly, she also makes sure not to do anything that would hurt a victim. ... We are grateful to work with her.”
A Nashville, Tenn.-native, Phillips joined The State in 2004 as a business reporter. She since has covered a range of areas from enterprise reporting, to immigration issues and law enforcement.
Her recent work relating to domestic violence and sexual assault has included the investigation into a Fort Jackson drill sergeant’s sexual assault charges, the search for missing Richland County teen Gabrielle Swainson, and the trial of the Columbia mother, Zinah Jennings, now serving a 10-year prison sentence on a cruelty to children charge related to her missing toddler, Amir.
Others recognized by the S.C. Coalition Against Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault:
Advocate of the Year: Damitra Hilton, My Sister’s House Inc., Charleston
Volunteer of the Year: Yajaira Benet-Smith, PASOs, a Latino outreach program, Beaufort
Law Enforcement Professional of the Year: Richard Carter, special victims unit investigator, Richland County Sheriff’s Department.
Carter was nominated for the award by Zoe McDowell of Sexual Trauma Services of the Midlands for the compassion he shows victims when investigating sexual assault crimes.
“He goes above and beyond to make survivors comfortable,” McDowell said. “It’s a really scary process, and he tries to make it as easy as possible.”
Carter said he takes the approach, “if something happened to my family, that’s what I would want.”