UNION — Six women who died as a result of domestic violence will be remembered during a ceremony at the Union County Courthouse on Tuesday.
October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month and the SAFE Homes-Rape Crisis Coalition is joining with local and area law enforcement, victims advocacy groups and other organizations to remember the victims and survivors of domestic violence in Union County.
Marlene Evans, victim services director, said the event, which will begin at noon, will be a “Silent Witness Vigil” that will involve “bright red silhouettes that will serve as silent witnesses for the victims of Union County domestic homicides. Each silhouette will have a gold chest plate with each victim’s name, their age, the date of their death, the circumstances of their death, the name of the perpetrator, and the outcome for the perpetrator. We also put who they leave behind, such as family and friends.”
The seven silhouettes at Tuesday’s vigil will honor the memory of the six women who Evans said have died as result of domestic violence in Union County since 2002. They include:
• Annie Ruth Peake — 2002
• Carolyn Lipford Blackwood — 2005
• Marisha Sharay Jeter — 2008
• Aretha Maria Fernandez — 2008
• Catina Becham — 2010
• Rosemary Michelle Lee — 2011
There will also be a seventh silhouette with a chest plate bearing a question mark. Evans this is the for the unknown victims of domestic violence.
“It will symbolize all the victims out there that we don’t know about,” Evans said. “It will represent the men, women and children that are being battered and are unaware of the services provided by agencies like SAFE Homes or are prevented from seeking those services.”
Evans said the vigil will also feature an address by Suzie Fernandez, the mother Aretha Maria Fernandez, who will speak about the death of her daughter and the impact it has had on her family.
The Union County Sheriff’s Office will also participate in the ceremony with Sheriff David Taylor addressing the community.
Evans said the Union Public Safety Department, Union County Clerk of Court, the Sixteenth Circuit Solicitor’s Office, Union County Department of Social Services, Guardian Ad Litem and City of Union will also take part in the ceremony.
Recent Violence Policy Center statistics show that, per capita, South Carolina ranks second in the nation for women murdered by men they are intimately involved such as a boyfriend or husband. Evans said this is a disturbing statistic made even more disturbing by the fact that the problem appears to be getting worse.
“In the past couple of years, South Carolina ranked ninth or seventh, more typically we’re in the top five,” Evans said. “It’s very unsettling that we’re once again in the top five, that we’re second in the nation.
“In most areas you want to be number one,” she said. “In this case, it would be better to be fiftieth in the nation rather than second.”
Evans said the public is urged to attend Tuesday’s vigil and learn more about the problem of domestic violence and what they can do about it and show their support for its victims and survivors.
The SAFE Homes-Rape Crisis Coalition is a private, non-profit organization that provides services to victims of domestic violence in Spartanburg, Cherokee and Union counties and assists victims of sexual assault in Spartanburg and Cherokee counties. For more information, call (864) 583-9803.
Editor Charles Warner can be reached at 864-427-1234, ext. 14, or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.