Domestic violence awareness walk aims to bring resources to the forefront

·4 min read

Oct. 7—A solemn reminder of domestic violence will be on display in North Augusta on Oct. 10 during an awareness walk.

The second annual event, starting at the North Augusta Municipal Center and ending at Maude Edenfield Park from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m., is being organized by North Augusta resident Summer Neal. Participants can register online for free.

North Augusta law enforcement, Mayor Briton Williams and Aiken's Cumbee Center will be in attendance accepting donations.

"We are just really excited to raise some funds for the Cumbee Center and really just show the community that North Augusta cares about survivors in our area," Neal said.

Neal, who is a survivor of an abusive relationship, wants to showcase the resources available to men and women in need.

"It took a lot for me to get out of it and come to my own person, and I feel like now I am in such a positive place," Neal said. "I just got married to an amazing person, and I think that it's just time for me to give back and help other people who may be experiencing the same thing and just raising that awareness I think because it's so important."

Participants can share and listen to personal stories. October is nationally recognized as domestic violence awareness month.

"I think just to hear these personal stories is so important to show that this does happen and it does happen to anybody at any time," Neal said. "I think just opening their eyes to what's going on in our community and how our community is helping and really just showing that North Augusta and the CSRA, we are a strong community and we want survivors to know that we are there for them."

In the most recent Violence Policy Center report "When Men Murder Women", South Carolina was ranked sixth in the nation, based on 2019 data. In 2020, South Carolina ducked out of the top 10 for the first time in two decades.

"That means that the fight to end domestic violence must continue to ensure the safety and well being of all the citizens of our state," South Carolina Attorney General Alan Wilson said in the Silent Witness Ceremony in Columbia on Oct. 5.

"That's unfortunate that that just adds another layer of reasoning as to why we need to bring this awareness to everyone," the Cumbee Center executive director Jessica Coach said.

The Cumbee Center, one of the partners in the North Augusta Domestic Violence Awareness Walk, is a nonprofit to help domestic violence victims and families across six South Carolina counties. The center relies on donations and has a 20 bed emergency shelter.

All services provided are free and confidential with access to crisis hotlines, hospital advocacy and safe housing. The Cumbee Center is the only provider of trauma informed domestic and sexual violence services in Aiken County.

"I think it's important that everyone is aware of domestic violence," Coach said. "Domestic violence is often known or often considered the hidden crime, something that a lot of people don't talk about."

The Cumbee Center, located at 254 Beaufort St. in Aiken will also be partnering with the Community Ministry of North Augusta. A case manager will be available every Wednesday from 9:30 am to 2:00 pm.

"The decision to expand our presence into the North Augusta area was a logical step in our growth strategy," Coach said. "Nearly 40% of our Aiken county clients are closer to North Augusta. We have the opportunity to meet a demand while leveraging the area's underserved populations by making our services more accessible for those closer to North Augusta."

Last year's awareness walk had 80 participants, according to Neal. She hopes to bring the community together on a united front for awareness.

"I just want to bring hope to the community that things do get better. I seem to relate to personal stories that we will be having and the Mayor's coming out," Neal said. "We have the North Augusta police department coming out showing that we have these resources ready and there are people wanting to help and raising awareness that resources are available and that love shouldn't hurt."

Samantha Winn covers the city of North Augusta, with a focus on government and community oriented business. Follow her on Twitter: @samanthamwinn and on Facebook and Instagram: @swinnnews.

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