On Feb. 14, Second Sunday on King Street was full of the customary pink and red balloons, cookies and couples. However, one thing stood out as different. The lighthearted, bustling mood had a more somber counterpoint as the Southern Poverty Law Center’s activists raised awareness for an issue that has plagued South Carolina for decades.
As many already know, the issue plaguing South Carolina is domestic abuse.
If you found yourself at the corner of King and Calhoun on Sunday afternoon, you might have noticed the group of young women holding a sign that proclaimed “S.C. is 1st in the nation for women murdered by their intimate partners.” The young women handed out bags of candy and flowers with a thin strip of paper attached, which read “Every 9 seconds in the U.S., a woman is assaulted or beaten.”
Deviating from the conventional trappings of Valentine’s Day, SPLC held the activist event Empower with a Flower to raise awareness about this statewide crisis of domestic violence. Maria Figueroa, a member of the group, explained that any donations made on Sunday will be sent to My Sister’s House — a nonprofit organization that “provides services, programs and resources to empower domestic violence victims and their children to live free from abuse.”
Sadly, the abuse is rampant. According to mysistershouse.org, it is one of the most common crimes — the website reports that 33 million, approximately 15 percent, of American adults are current or former victims of domestic abuse. 1.75 million work days are lost every year to domestic violence and with over 48,000 victims in South Carolina in 2010 alone, this epidemic has reached vile proportions.
As Valentine’s Day celebrates and encourages the growth of relationships, Empower with a Flower raises awareness about unhealthy relationships and offers battered women a second chance, a message of hope and a promise of love. The organization also provides advocacy programs, support groups and meetings, shelter programs and children’s programs.
Being in a relationship or having a significant other is exciting and enjoyable, but the appalling statistics of domestic abuse in South Carolina cannot be ignored.
My Sister’s House offers a 24-hour confidential crisis line for any woman seeking help from a domestic violence situation. They can be reached at (843)744-3242, or toll-free at (800)273-HOPE.
To read more about the domestic violence crisis in South Carolina, please see The Post and Courier’s Pulitzer Prize-winning series “Till Death Do Us Part.”