UNION — How many victims of domestic violence are there in Union County and who are they?
October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month and a “Silent Witness Vigil” sponsored by a group of local and area law enforcement agencies, victims advocacy groups, and other organizations led by the SAFE Homes-Rape Crisis Coalition sought to draw attention to the problem of domestic violence in Union County.
The vigil, held on the front lawn of the Union County Courthouse ealier this week, featured seven silhouettes bearing gold chest plates with the names of the six women and one man who have lost their lives to domestic violence in Union County since 2002.
In addition to their names, the chest plates also bore the victims’ ages at the time of their deaths, the circumstances of their deaths, who they left behind, and fates of those accused of killing them.
They were the known victims of domestic violence in Union County during the past decade, and their stories were told Tuesday by family members, friends, and others.
There was, however, an eighth silhouette, but its chest plate bore only a question mark symbolizing what organizers said where the unknown victims of domestic violence in Union County.
During Tuesday’s ceremony, the stories of the seven known victims of criminal domestic violence were read by family members, friends and volunteers. In some cases, the stories were told in first person, while in two instances the voice was that of a parent.
Rosemary Michelle Lee
(Read by Nadie Gault)
“My name is Rosemary Michelle Lee. I am 21 years old. On July 26, 2011, my ex-boyfriend, Kerry Brown, shot and killed me and my unborn daughter while I was at a picnic at Foster Park in Union County. Kerry then shot and killed himself. I leave behind my toddler daughter, family and friends.
“My name is Rosemary Michelle Lee.”
(Read by Harold Thompson)
“My name is Kenneth Goins. I am 33 years old. On September 26, 2012, my fiance, Christina Oliver, stabbed me to death. Christina is charged with Murder and awaits trial. I leave behind my family and friends.
“My name is Kenneth Goins.”
(Read by Debra Bishop)
“My name is Catina Beacham. I am 37 years old. October 29, 2010, my boyfriend, Steve Littlejohn, shot and killed me in my home in Union County. My two young children found my body the next morning. John pled guilty to a reduced charge of Involuntary Manslaughter on August 3, 2011 and received 5 years in prison with time served. I leave behind my children, family and friends.
“My name is Catina Beacham.”
Caroline Lipford Blackwood
(Read by Kim Lemons)
“My name is Caroline Blackwood. I am 26 years old. On June 7, 2005, my estranged husband, Mark Blackwood, shot and killed me in the woods of Rose Hill State Park. Mark then shot and killed himself. I leave behind my two children, family and friends.
“My name is Caroline Lipford Blackwood.”
Marisha Sharay Jeter
(Read by Manning Jeter)
My daughter is Marisha Sharay Jeter. She is 16 years old. On January 3, 2008, Pernell Thompson and his wife, Yolanda, stabbed her in the neck and killed her. Pernall and Yolanda pleaded guilty to Murder and were sentenced to Life in Prison without Parole. My daughter leaves behind her parents, brothers, and friends.
“My daughter is Marisha Sharay Jeter.”
Annie Ruth Peake
(Read by Stephanie Kitchens)
“My name is Annie Ruth Peake. I am 49 years old. On March 24, 2002, my common-law husband, Stanley Jeter, shot and killed me. Stanley was found not guilty. I leave behind my family and friends.
“My name is Annie Ruth Peake.”
Aretha Maria Fernandez
(Read by Susie Fernandez)
“My daughter is Aretha Maria Fernandez. She is 31 years old. On September 3, 2008, her boyfriend, Jamel Good, murdered her and discarded her body in Sumter National Forest. Jamel was found Guilty of Murder and was sentenced to Life in Prison without Parole. My daughter leaves behind her young son, her parents, family and friends.
“My daughter is Aretha Maria Fernandez.”
The names and stories of the unknown victims of domestic violence in Union County could not be read out, but what was shared by those who spoke is that not only do they exist but there are probably more unknown victims than there are known ones.
Carlisle Town Council Member Maxine Spencer pointed out the following facts about domestic violence:
• One in four women will experience domestic violence in their lifetime.
• 1.3 million women by men in their lives such as husbands and boyfriends.
• Women are most often victimized by someone they know.
• Women ages 20-24 are at greatest risk of domestic violence.
• Most cases of criminal domestic violence are never reported to the police.
Spencer cited a report by the Violence Policy Council which found that 46 women in South Carolina were killed in domestic violence-related incidents in 2010.
“That’s a ratio of nearly one woman a week,” Spencer said.
Spencer pointed out that, especially in the South, there’s a saying that “what goes on behind close doors stays behind closed doors.” She called on women to “not keep silent, to let people know something is wrong,” to “open up the door and shout ‘enough.’”
Union County Sheriff David Taylor also spoke, pointing out that, when it comes to domestic violence, especially against women, South Carolina’s record is not good.
“Statistics prove that South Carolina ranks 2nd in the nation when it comes to women being killed by men,” Taylor said. “Unfortunately Union County has seen its share of violence of this nature.”
Taylor then listed what he said were “some staggering statistics” about Union County:
• Jan. 1, 2011 to Oct. 1, 2011 — 632 domestic disturbance calls.
• Jan. 1, 2012 to Oct. 1, 2012 — 696 domestic disturbance calls.
Taylor says these figures do not include calls received by the Union Public Safety Department or the Jonesville Police Department.
• Jan. 1, 2011 to Oct. 1, 2011 — 40 incident reports of domestic violence.
• Jan. 1, 2012 to Oct. 1, 2012 — 112 incident reports of domestic violence.
Taylor said “that is a 280 percent increase from the previous year.”
As for why domestic violence is on the rise, Taylor said he’s often asked that question, but his answer is always the same.
“I get asked by the media all the time, ‘What do you attribute the increase to for domestic violence?’” he said.”Bottom line, there is no excuse for domestic violence. Not alcohol, drugs, unemployment … there is no excuse.”
For more information about domestic violence and the servicesavailable for victims of domestic violence, contact the SAFE Homes-Rape Crisis Coalition at (864) 583-9803.
Editor Charles Warner can be reached at 864-427-1234, ext. 14, or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.