October is known as breast cancer awareness month. But it’s also domestic violence awareness month.
Domestic violence is any type of abuse where one person exercises power over another, said Melva Rodgers, an advocate for Sistercare in Fairfield County. That includes physical, mental, emotional, psychological or financial abuse.
The goal of the Columbia-based Sistercare is to empower domestic violence survivors and their children.
South Carolina in particular has a terrible legacy when it comes to domestic violence, according to the South Carolina Coalition Against Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault.
The state each year has ranked among the most dangerous for women since the Violence Policy first published its When Men Murder Women report in 2002.
Rodgers said domestic violence isn’t talked about much because of the stigma surrounding it.
The awareness month gives “a voice to those who don’t have a voice, to those who are not often listened to, to those who are in the margins and in the shadows,” Rodgers said.
Visions of Women is a non-profit organization located in Columbia whose goal is to educate, support and lead in order to raise awareness for domestic violence.
CEO and founder of Visions of Women, Dorlisa Adams, said she has been in an unhealthy relationship.
“I didn’t know where to turn to,” said Adams, who also had some friends in the same situation. “I didn’t even know what to tell my friends what to do. And so I told one friend who was going through physical violence to just leave the relationship and leave, not knowing like I know now, that me telling her to leave actually made her stay.”
She later decided to start a support group on her college campus with some friends.
“To be honest with you, that was God leading me to do that,” Adams said.
“I did not know why I was starting this women’s support group, but he just showed me to start a women’s support group on college campus.”
To raise more awareness, Rodgers said it can all start with a personal conversation and being more comfortable talking about domestic violence.
“When you’re more comfortable talking about it, abusers can’t hide in the shadows anymore,” Rodgers said.
Columbia advocacy groups put on a play earlier this month that focused on teen dating violence, elder abuse and domestic violence in the home. They also hosted a community baby shower to provide items such as baby wipes, bottles and diapers to parents of infant babies 18 months or younger.
On Oct. 3, the S.C. Attorney General’s Office held its annual Silent Witness ceremony at the Statehouse to recognize those killed last year. Family members of the 29 women and seven men who died honored their loved ones by carrying their silhouettes to the building’s steps. Bells rang for each name called.
“Domestic violence leaves scars often unseen,” Attorney General Alan Wilson told the crowd gathered. “By raising awareness and supporting survivors, we can help end the abuse, one act of courage and compassion at a time.”