City Hall was the host of a candlelight vigil held in honor of Domestic Violence Awareness Month.
Around 50 people gathered on the lawn to honor the victims of domestic violence and pledge to their part to help victims of abuse.
That crowd included city, county and state officials and members of law enforcement from agencies across Pickens County.
Gail Few, Victims Advocate with the Pickens Police Department, shared some sobering statistics with the crowd.
From 2004 to 2008, there were 446 domestic homicides and 6,478 domestic sexual violence victimizations.
During that same time, there were a total of 13,626 serious injuries resulting from domestic violence, but the number of serious injuries from domestic violence is likely higher, as those figures are not based on medical diagnoses.
Mayor David Owens read the proclamation that he signed earlier this month declaring October Domestic Violence Awareness Month in the city of Pickens.
“Domestic violence is a serious crime that effects people of all races, gender and income levels,” Owens read, adding domestic violence affects over 4 million people a year.
“One in three Americans has witnessed an incident of domestic violence,” Owens said.
Domestic violence costs the nation billions of dollars each year in medical expenses, police and court costs, shelters and foster care, sick leave, absenteeism and non-productivity,” he said.
Only a community effort “will put a stop to this heinous crime,” Owens said.
Pickens Representative Davey Hiott thanked all the members of law enforcement who deal with domestic violence, often on a daily basis.
“You have ultimate, genuine concern for those folks that you deal with,” Hiott said.
The entire community must band together to end domestic violence, he said.
“We think ‘Oh, this doesn’t go on in a small community like Pickens and Pickens County,” he said. “Those folks — they’re wrong.”
At one time, South Carolina and the nation didn’t take domestic violence seriously, Hiott said.
“It was just something that happened to bad people,” he said. “But now people are starting to realize that it happens to your neighbors, it happens to your family members, it happens to your loved ones — it happens to anybody at any time.”
Hiott read a letter from Sen. Larry Martin thanking law enforcement for their efforts to help victims and put an end to the violence.
Sheriff C. David Stone said “domestic violence plagues us all year long.”
Working together, Pickens County residents “can break the cycle of domestic violence and bring hope to victims,” Stone said.
Too often, domestic violence doesn’t seem like a real problem to us — until it affects someone we know, Stone continued.
The stories we read in newspapers and see on TV are “repulsive and terrible — but they’re not personal, not until it happens to you,” Stone said.
Stone “steadfastly promised” that the Pickens County Sheriff’s Office would continue to listen and try to help victims.
“The more we talk about domestic violence and the more we create an environment in which the victims feel able to report what is happening to them, the more chance we have of coming to grips with the scourge on society,” Stone said.
Domestic violence cases often increase in times of economic hardship, and we must all increase our efforts to reach out to those suffering from abuse, he said.
“Domestic violence is the one crime that knows no social boundaries,” said Pickens Police Chief Tommy Ellenburg. “It affects the poor, the rich, and the in-between. It’s something we all need to keep in mind.”
Ron Duncan, director of missions for the Pickens Twelve Mile Association said religion is no deterrent to domestic violence. “There’s just as much spousal, child and sexual abuse in Christian homes as in non-Christian homes.”
Duncan said he’s also concerned with “the people who do the violence as well as the ones who are abused.”
“Because both of them have problems,” he said. “As Christians what we’re supposed to be doing is helping people who need help.”
MARY’S House is a great example to the Christian community for the work they do in helping victims of domestic violence, Duncan said.
Kim Todd with MARY’s House said this year alone the shelter has already served 160 women and children.
The MARY’s House staff don’t judge the victims of domestic violence, Todd said.
“We love them where they are — because that’s exactly what they need,” she said.
The officials and audience members then lit candles in honor of domestic violence victims as Kristen Porter sang “The River.”
For more information on MARY’s House, call 855-1708.