Dr. Alice Hodges, executive director of MEG's House in Greenwood, addresses an observance at Lander University meant to draw attention to the serious problem of domestic violence in South Carolina and across the country.
A small but solemn crowd of students, faculty and staff gathered on Lander University's assembly plaza today for a program titled "Futures Without Violence," scheduled as part of the national observance of Domestic Violence Month.
Speaker after speaker stood in front of a banner proclaiming, "These hands won't hurt," and talked about the seriousness and prevalence of domestic violence. Several stated that the problem is rampant in South Carolina, whose percentage of women being murdered by men is ranked second in the U.S.
Dr. Alice Hodges, executive director of MEG's House, the emergency shelter in Greenwood that provides help for victims of domestic violence, said her agency is caring for nearly 200 victims of domestic violence, women and their children. She thanked Lander for conducting the awareness program and added, "We must continue to come together to prevent abuse, provide information about resources in the community for victims and honor those women who have been killed by domestic partners."
Sen. Floyd Nicholson, of Greenwood's 10th district, echoed Hodges' sentiments. He said, "We must work together to eradicate the problem," and he told women in abusive situations, "Seek help. It won't go away. It won't get better."
Andi Mills, a nontraditional Lander student from Honea Path, described in detail the battering she suffered at the hands of her husband and said he almost killed her. She was hospitalized twice for treatment of her injuries before she decided to walk away from the marriage. "I felt empowered and finally in control of my own life." But her ordeal was far from over. She told of the night her former husband broke into her home, raped and stabbed her 16 times, sending her to the hospital for several weeks.
Mills' advice to women in abusive domestic partnerships: "If you wonder if it's time to get out, it is time to get out."
Speakers spoke about the battered women's bill of rights and the dater's bill of rights. They said women have the right to love themselves; to live in a safe home; to be treated as equals; to say "no" to a partner and expect that he will stop his inappropriate behavior immediately; and to be treated with respect at all times.
The program, sponsored by Lander's Wellness Center, included musical selections by the Voices of Unity of Lander's Minorities on the Move, and student Janza Walker, president of the university's Presidential Ambassadors.
There was a somber moment when colored balloons were released as a bell tolled. White balloons symbolized the survivors of domestic violence; purple were for those currently suffering in abusive relationships and black for women who have been killed by husbands or boyfriends.
Pastor Scott Smith of Lander's Baptist Collegiate Ministry delivered the closing prayer. In it he asked for healing for those touched by domestic violence. He prayed, "Help us hear, touch, love, make a difference in the world and care."