Mayor’s Walk Against Domestic Violence held to increase awareness

A rainy morning shortened the route, but it couldn’t stop more than 100 people from gathering at Finlay Park Saturday for the Mayor’s Walk Against Domestic Violence.

Columbia Mayor Pro Tem Tameika Isaac Devine hosted the event, designed to raise awareness of domestic abuse. South Carolina was ranked fifth worst in the nation in domestic violence deaths in a 2016 study by the Violence Policy Center.

“The more people raise their voices, the more people take steps, the more people say ‘That’s not right,’ the more people will realize that’s not acceptable,” Devine said. “Clearly, we’re not where we need to be, but we are making a difference in this state.”

Columbia City Manager Teresa Wilson, Columbia Police Chief Skip Holbrook, Sistercare Executive Director Nancy Barton and a domestic violence survivor who asked to be identified only as Megan also spoke to the crowd before the group walked about a mile down the Vista Greenway.

“This problem needs our attention. It needs our help,” Holbrook said. “We’ve got to work together to break this cycle. We’re all in this together.”

The event, in its 11th year, is free and open to all. Devine said she and other founders of the event chose not to make it a fundraiser because they wanted to encourage people to come regardless of whether they could make a financial contribution.

Devine, who has worked for more than two decades to help survivors of domestic violence, said she has never experienced it herself, but added that one need not see it firsthand to work to end the abuse. “You don’t have to be a survivor to say that this is an important issue,” she said.

Megan, who was shot in the head by her husband in 2011, barely escaping with her life, said she shares her story to inspire others to share theirs in hopes of ending the cycle of abuse.

“My story is just that: a story. It’s not who I am,” she said. “Let’s all create a new legacy of peace for our children.”

Sistercare offers help to those trying to escape domestic violence. Those in need can call the Sistercare hotline at any time at 803-765-9428.