EASLEY — Organizers of Pickens County’s Domestic Violence Awareness events broadened their message to Easley last week in a month-long series of candlelight vigils.
Easley’s 5 Point Church on Main Street was the host of last Thursday’s event, the second in a series that offer messages from victims and victim families about the development and violent end to domestic abuse incidents. The first was held on the steps of the Pickens County Courthouse the previous Thursday.
Sgt. Bryan Cowan, domestic violence investigator for the City of Easley Police Department, said that 87 cases of domestic violence were reported to his department in 2011. Of those, 65 led to criminal charges, 54 cases against men and seven cases against women.
Of the 87, 17 cases were dropped for lack of evidence or failure of the victims to agree to testify. Five cases remain pending.
Dee Lemmons accepted the service of MARYS House, a faith-based Pickens County’s shelter for abused women, a year ago. She now serves as assistant shelter director.
“I didn’t realize how broken I was when I came to Mary’s House,” Lemmons told the crowd of about 25 gathered Thursday.
She described how, for seven years, she had lived with a man who had gotten increasingly violent and controlling in his relationship with her. “He would hold guns to my head, and the last time he fired at me, missing my head by 12 inches,” Lemmons said.
“Several weeks ago, Lisa (Smith, director of MARYS House,) described what I was like that night when I showed up,” Lemmons said. “She talked about my demeanor and my posture. That wasn’t me. Now thanks to MARYS House, the old Dee is back.”
Also speaking Thursday was Skip Smith, brother of Sandy Lee Smith, a Crosswell woman who police say was shot and killed in a domestic violence incident Aug. 30. Smith’s son, Daniel Gabriel Smith, an Easley High School student, was also killed in the incident, police say, by Sandy Smith’s husband, William D. Thomas. He turned the gun on himself in the end, police say.
“We knew something was not right in that family, but (we didn’t expect) that, ” said Skip Smith. “All couples fight, but it shouldn’t come to something like that, a senseless act of violence,” he said. “If you have a fight with your husband, wife, girlfriend or boyfriend, somebody has to leave, to cool down. It begins with yelling and then there is a push and somebody drinks too much. It comes in a progression,” he said.
“Children grow up seeing that. They look up and think, ‘that’s how life is.’ That has to stop. Children need to know that it doesn’t have to be that way,” Smith said.
The Rev. Lee Dudley, priest at St. Michael’s Episcopal Church, was on hand with church volunteer Shannon Keyes, who has been active in assistance to MARYS House since prior to the establishment of he shelter. “We assisted them when they were taking in women and housing them wherever they could,” said Keyes. “We have bought groceries for them and made sure they had clothes in their clothes closet for the people they serve. We’d contact families with children of the same age as the ones there (at MARYS House) looking for clothes they could give.”
Dudley provided a prayer for the event, asking healing for the victims and abusers.
Three Ealsey High School students were present for the event.Skip Smith, encouraged one of the girl’s, a friend of Gabe Smith, to speak about the shooting had affected students. “It has affected everyone in the community,” Skip Smith told the crowd.
Tonya Rawls said she came because 5 Point Church had asked members to show up in support of the event. She is a member of the church. “They said to do more than just observe, get involved, so I called up (MARYS House) and agreed to volunteer. I don’t know what they’ll have me do, but I volunteered.”
Check back with theeasleyprogress.com, pickenssentinel.com or powdersvillepost.com about details of Thursday’s event focusing on domestic violence awareness.