Men asked to pledge a stand against domestic violence

Hampton County men take note: This month you can help take a stand against domestic violence simply by signing your name and taking a very important pledge.
In support of Domestic Violence Awareness Month, Citizens Opposed to Domestic Abuse (CODA) and several partnering agencies are teaming up during October to help stop the cycle of domestic violence in Hampton County and surrounding areas with a "Men's Pledge to Take a Stand Against Domestic Violence."
Through the Men's Pledge, all Hampton County men are asked to sign a pledge card signifying that they realize domestic violence is a serious problem and they will take steps to end it, including such steps as encouraging friends, family members, and co-workers to break the silence and seek action and reaching out to victims.
"As men we must work to stop the violence," said Martha Lawrence, Community Coordinator at CODA. "We must learn how to take action when we witness domestic violence in our families, workplaces, or community. If you are a man concerned with creating safe, healthy families and communities, reach out and speak to other men."
The Men's Pledge cards, which can be found on Page 5 of the Oct. 8 issue of The Guardian, can be filled out and dropped off or mailed to The Hampton County Guardian.
A list of all the Hampton County men who take the pledge will be published in the Oct. 29 issue of The Guardian.
Men are the focus of this campaign because males commit 95 percent of all domestic violence, and both women and children are victims. Domestic violence is no longer considered a private matter that only affects a few. It affects our children, our schools, our workplaces, even our churches.
"Domestic violence has been thought of as a private matter," said Lawrence. "But by publicly acknowledging their abhorrence of this crime, men can help take it out of the closet and make it easier for victims to come forward for help."
South Carolina currently ranks second in the nation in the number of women killed by men. Attorney General Henry McMaster has called domestic violence the state's number one crime problem.
Three murders have been attributed to domestic violence in CODA's four county service area in 2009, including the death of Heather Croom, a Varnville mother of two whose strangled body was found dumped in a ditch in what authorities called a domestic incident that got out of control.
"Some women are murdered, but a lot of victims die a little bit each day," said Lawrence. "We want to reach them and let them know they're not alone."
The CODA educator feels that people may be more likely to take notice of the serious nature of this type of crime when the message comes from men saying, "no more."
Domestic violence is also as commonplace as it is deadly. Current statistics suggest that nearly one in three women experience at least one physical assault by an intimate partner during their lifetime, and other forms of domestic violence not reported can include any form of coercion to control an intimate partner - including emotional, verbal, or sexual abuse.
"Domestic abuse is an equal opportunity crime that transcends all races and economic levels," said Lawrence. "If one out of three women is physically abused in her lifetime, every man knows someone who is, who has been or who will be abused. These women could be their mother, their sister, their daughter. A man may want to take the pledge in hopes of preventing his daughter from being a victim. His actions can educate his children as to what he believes is a healthy, loving relationship."
Lawrence added that taking the Men's Pledge may also be the first step in stopping a cycle of violence that may include your own children.
"Children growing up in homes with domestic violence are confused and terrified as they witness one person of the two they love best harming the other,"said Lawrence. "Boys are likely to repeat the abusive behavior as adults, and girls may repeat the pattern as adult victims."
"And men who grew up with domestic violence, may want to take the pledge to try to prevent other children from experiencing this pain - or prevent children from repeating the cycle of abuse," she added.
This pledge is being sponsored by the Hampton County Interagency Coordinating Council, Hampton County Council to Prevent Child Abuse and Neglect, Citizens Opposed to Domestic Abuse, and The Hampton County Guardian.
CODA is also partnering with the Hampton County Department of Social Services to sponsor the ongoing Clothesline Project at the local DSS facility, and the organization will participate in Saturday's Hampton County Health Fair. Men's Pledge cards will also be available at the Health Fair.