Fraternity chapter organizes event for domestic violence awareness

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Recent statistics by the Violence Policy Center show that South Carolina ranks No. 2 in the rate of women killed by men because of domestic violence.

Earlier this year in Sumter County, deputies reported a 54-year-old woman was beaten to death by her 73-year-old boyfriend with a baseball bat. And Sumter police say a turbulent relationship led to the deaths of two children who died after the apartment they were in was set on fire.

With October being Domestic Violence Awareness month, the Gamma Iota Chapter of Omega Psi Phi Fraternity Inc. in Sumter is taking a proactive measure to bring light to the issue.

For the second year, the organization is hosting a 5K walk/run charity event in an attempt to collect donations and raise money to stop domestic violence. The walk/run event will take place at 10 a.m. Saturday at Dillon Park.

Chief Deputy Hampton Gardner of the Sumter County Sheriff's Office, basileus of Omega Psi Phi, said it was disappointing and disturbing to know South Carolina ranks so high in domestic violence. As a law enforcement officer, Gardner understands how domestic violence can separate families.

According to Gardner, there often are occasions where domestic disputes are never known to law enforcement.

"In many cases, domestic violence statistics should be higher," Gardner said. "But many people choose not to call because it is their spouse, and they don't want anything to happen to the father of their children."

Gardner credits fraternity member RenDale Samuels for organizing the walk. Samuels said he became concerned after having a conversation with his oldest daughter and learning she had a friend going through domestic abuse. Samuels added it is so imperative that this sort of action is stopped immediately.

"We can't allow them to start abusing our girls or young women at an early age because this is going to continue as a lifestyle for them as they become older," Samuels said.

Fellow fraternity member Dexter McLendon, who is a major in the Third Army, said in so many situations victims of domestic violence are made to think they've done something to cause their abuse. McLendon added victims will also go out of their way to hide their bruises.

"We've got to get people to a point where people aren't ashamed to let it be known that they're being abused," McLendon said.

While much of the focus is placed on helping the victim, it is also significant to find out the mindset of the person responsible for the violence.

"We all look at the victims and say what can we do for them," Gardner said. "But we also need to be educating the abuser and making him aware how horrific this action is and making sure that person receives counseling"

Gardner, who is hoping the run/walk is well attended, said supporting this event will achieve three objectives.

"This educates the community about the growing systemic problem of domestic violence, is an opportunity to partner with people in the community to stop domestic violence and the walk also shows how people are promoting healthier lifestyles," Gardner said.

Reach Corey Davis at (803) 774-1295.

BOX 1

Registration for the 5k walk/run will begin under the Dillon Park gazebo from 8 to 9:30 a.m. The cost is $10 for ages 16 and under; $12 for ages 17 and above. Those participating will also receive a T-shirt and proceeds will go to help organizations, such as the local YWCA, that deal with victims and accused abusers.

Box 2

2012 Criminal domestic violence statistics from January to September.

Sumter County Sheriff's Office has received 283 calls related to criminal domestic violence. Sixty-six of the reported calls have resulted in arrests. One incident ended in death.

The Sumter Police Department has seen a decline in criminal domestic violence calls, from 324 to 249 during the same time frame. Some 206 of the 249 calls were female victims with the oldest being 72 years old and the youngest 18.