The rain may have poured heavy Saturday morning, but it could not stop dozens of Columbia residents from walking through Finlay Park’s new Greenway extension as the city hosted the 11th Annual Mayor’s Walk Against Domestic Violence. Wearing rain boots, ponchos, coats, hats, and other protective gear, members of the community and different organizations gathered to stand together at event that was both a protest against relationship violence in the community, and also an honoring of survivors and the lives lost to domestic violence in South Carolina.
Midlands Anchor was live on the scene with an in-depth interview with Mayor Pro Tem Tameika Isaac Devine, who emceed the event.
While discussing startling statistics showing that South Carolina ranks number five in the nation for the number of women killed by men, Councilwoman Devine encouraged Columbia residents to stop viewing domestic violence as a private matter or family-only problem, and instead framed it as a public health issue that should be reported to authorities.
“People see the issue of domestic violence as ‘them’ and not ‘us,’ ” Devine said in her address to Saturday morning’s crowd. “I’ve been working as an advocate against domestic violence since 1997. In 20 years, I can say we have made a difference, but we clearly are not where we need to be.”
This year, the Mayor’s Walk encouraged participants to bring toiletries and other household items to donate to Sistercare, a nonprofit organization based in West Columbia that offers shelter, counseling, and other supports for survivors of domestic violence. Sistercare executive director Nancy Barton also spoke at the event; watch a video of her speech here.
A local survivor of domestic violence who suffered a gunshot wound to her head by her ex-partner told the crowd about her journey from childhood to the present. Her emotional speech was caught on video and can be viewed here. City of Columbia Police Chief Skip Holbrook also spoke at the event.
During the walk, participants held signs and chanted, “Choose to live!” For Devine, it was a symbol of hope for change in the community.
“I know there are women here who are in families of people who lost their lives,” she said, “and I want you to know that we stand with you, rain or shine, we will always stand with you.”