"If you're in a bad relationship, get out," guest speaker Emily Joy urged the crowd at Monday's Take Back the Night rally and march at Lander University. The mission of Take Back the Night events, which are held in more than 30 countries annually, is to end sexual and domestic violence.
Emily Joy called the murder of her 19-year-old daughter, Emily Anna Asbill, by her boyfriend, Michael Beaty, "a mother's worst nightmare."
Beaty, who strangled Asbill to death with a USB cord in 2013, was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.
Under current South Carolina law, if Asbill had survived, Beaty could have only been charged with a misdemeanor. The South Carolina General Assembly is considering legislation proposed by Emily Joy that would make strangulation and suffocation a felony.
The activist has collected "in excess of 10,000 signatures" on a petition to change the law and added more during her visit to Lander.
Catie Maffett, director of Victims' Services for the Greenwood County Sheriff's Office, also spoke at the rally. "We refuse to be silent any longer about sexual assault and domestic violence in our communities. We have to come together now and say we're not going to stand for it anymore," she said.
During the program and at designated points during the march that followed, Lander students also spoke, sharing stories about encounters with sexual and domestic violence.