More than 100 people gathered on the steps of the State House Thursday to remember those lost to domestic violence and help spread awareness during the 18th annual Silent Witness Story.
Volunteers dressed in purple, the color for Domestic Violence Awareness Month, passed out programs and tissues for the solemn ceremony, which features the names of each victim being read aloud. The program remembered the 10 men and 29 women who were victims of domestic violence and who died in 2014.
One woman who said she left an abusive marriage also described her situation for the gathering and said she wished she knew the signs of domestic violence earlier.
The event is hosted by the state Attorney General’s Office’s STOP (Services, Training, Officers and Prosecutors) Violence Against Women program at the State House.
Attorney General Alan Wilson said South Carolina ranks No. 1 in the nation for the rate of men killing women, according to this year’s report from the Violence Policy Center, based on 2013 statistics. It’s the fourth time the state has led the nation in that ranking and the 18th time in the report’s 18-year history that South Carolina has ranked in the top 10.
Wilson said South Carolina ranked second in 2012, which means the state is moving in the wrong direction.
He read a short descriptions of the victims and the circumstances surrounding each of last year’s victims’ deaths as people held cutouts of bodies on the State House steps to represent them.
“Domestic violence victims are all around us, in our neighborhoods, our workplaces and our places of worship,” Wilson said. “Domestic violence affects all walks of life.”
Leah McKee is the grants and major donor development manager for Sistercare, which provides services and advocates for domestic violence survivors and their children. Though it is challenging, McKee said working for the organization has been incredibly rewarding.
“While we cannot take away the pain and tragedy domestic violence has caused in so many lives, there are also many happy stories that leave my heart full each day,” she said. “I’ve heard hundreds of stories about truly incredible survivors who started independent lives free of violence.”
Wilson said the participants at the event were bound together by the common goal of eradicating domestic violence.
“Over the last several months, South Carolina has demonstrated time and time again that when we rally together around a common cause, we can effect real change,” he said. “... We as citizens, as people in this community, know how to come together. Coming together to bring about real change is what this event is about.”
About domestic violence
In 2013-14, more than 3,000 people requested emergency shelter, and more than 20,000 emergency calls were made to hotlines operated by the 13 domestic violence organizations in South Carolina, according to the S.C. Attorney General’s Office. To get domestic violence help: Victims of domestic violence can find resources and information at www.scag.gov/criminal-domestic-violence-in-south-carolina