Rock Hill’s Safe Passage hosts vigil for victims of domestic violence in S.C.

jzou@heraldonline.comOctober 25, 2013 

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MYKE CZUMAK

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Over a dozen women, men and children walked a few blocks from Oakland Avenue to Glencairn Garden in Rock Hill on Thursday night holding little plastic lights in their hands – symbols of a vigil to honor the state’s victims of domestic violence.

“It goes unseen, unheard, unwitnessed,” said Jada Charley, executive director of Safe Passage, the agency that hosted the walk. The nonprofit provides support for families and victims of abuse throughout York, Chester and Lancaster counties, including emergency shelter, a 24-hour crisis hotline, advocacy and counseling.

The vigil was held to commemorate victims of abuse as well as shed light on domestic violence statistics for the region.

Both York and Chester counties are among the top 10 in the state when it comes to ex-spouse violence and domestic intimidation reports, according to the state Department of Public Safety.

Nationally, South Carolina ranks first for most women killed by men in criminal domestic violence disputes, according to the Violence Policy Center. The state has been ranked number one three times in the last 10 years of the annual report.

Charley said that all too often, domestic violence becomes an issue relegated to the homes where they occur. “It is our business,” she said.

At 64, Diane Berinsky is still battling the emotional wounds from a relationship she began when she was 19. The Rock Hill native spoke publicly about her experience in a physically abusive marriage for the first time at the vigil.

“I was beaten within an inch of my life,” Berinsky said of her first marriage that lasted for eight years and resulted in broken ribs, surgery. The abuse also drove her to pursue a career in law and advocate for children as a volunteer guardian ad litem.

Berinsky now works as a legal assistant in a law firm in North Carolina and has been remarried for more than 30 years, but said she still has nightmares of the man who used to beat her.

“Domestic violence has to be taken very seriously,” she said. “It’s a thorn in the side of humanity.”

She recalled the slow transformation of the man she once loved to one she began to fear and the feeling that she was alone with nowhere to turn.

She spoke at the event because her daughter, Samantha, 22, is a volunteer coordinator for Safe Passage. Berinsky never told her about the abusive marriage until Samantha began working at the organization.

“It’s a sense of shame, not in her, but in the fact she’s been through it,” said Samantha of her mother.

Samantha said knowing her mother went through the same things that many of Safe Passage’s clients experience has brought the issue home in more ways than one.

“I’ve come home and just cried,” Samantha said of her work assisting families and victims of abuse. She said the toughest part of her job is seeing the same victims over and over again, unable to break patterns of abuse, as well as the children that may be involved in the situation.

“It’s frustrating,” she said, but at the same time, “it makes a difference.”

Berinsky said the Rock Hill area is in dire need of more places like Safe Passage, which provide victims with options and the support to make lifesaving and life-changing decisions that require time to make.

“They’re crucial for survival,” Berinsky said.

Safe Passage has recently faced difficulties of its own and is seeking funding to continue operating its emergency shelter in Rock Hill, which is the only one of its kind in York County specifically for victims of abuse.

Charley said statistics show that it takes an average of seven violent incidents to occur before women in abusive relationships begin to seek help. “That might be just one too many,” she said.

The choice to use the faux candles was a symbolic one. “These candles, you can’t snuff out.”

Jie Jenny Zou •  803-329-4062

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