Gala recognizes community advocates in fight against domestic violence

Christan Rainey lost his entire family to domestic violence when his stepfather killed his mother and all of his siblings. Grace Beahm/Staff

Illuminated by the faint glow of candlelight in memory of those lost each year to domestic violence, the Zonta Club of Charleston and Liza’s Lifeline on Saturday recognized four advocates of the cause and thanked them for their efforts to reduce the numbers.

The fifth annual Breaking the Silence Awards Gala drew a crowd of about a hundred to the Harbour Club, 35 Prioleau St. in Charleston, including area attorneys, judges, law enforcement officers, firefighters and social workers.

“Tonight is a celebration,” Zonta Club Vice President Sarah Moore said, “but first let us remember those who lost their lives to senseless, cruel, and devastating acts of violence.”

South Carolina’s in “dire need” of advocacy, support and education on the issue, she said, adding that the rate of women killed by men in the state is nearly double the national average.

Zonta and Liza’s Lifeline both aim to prevent violence by raising funds, assisting victims and holding workshops to increase awareness.

Post and Courier reporter Doug Pardue, a member of the team that produced the five-part series “Till Death Do Us Part,” served as the gala’s keynote speaker. The series explored South Carolina’s status as one of the nation’s deadliest states for women, a place where more than 300 had been killed in domestic violence over the past decade, dying at a rate of about one every 12 days.

Pardue took the occasion to thank a number of women who shared their stories of abuse with the newspaper.

“It takes real stories, real people and real tragedy to make people stand up and pay attention,” he said.

Gov. Nikki Haley recently announced the creation of a domestic violence task force that will address cultural issues that contributed to South Carolina being among the deadliest in the nation for women.

Christan Rainey, the Executive Director of Real Men Against Domestic Violence and Abuse, announced at the gala that he had received a call from Haley asking him to be one of the task force’s 40 members.

Rainey was awarded Best Volunteer at the event. He became an advocate after losing five members of his family to domestic violence. He told attendees he sometimes feels as though he doesn’t deserve the awards and recognition he’s received for his efforts.

“There’s so much more I want to do and so much more that needs to be done in the state of South Carolina,” he said.

The following people were also honored at the gala:

Liza’s Lifeline Person of the Year — Patricia Warner Kurent, director of the Tri-County Domestic Violence Coordinating Council.

Best Professional — Brenda Edmond, Joint Base Charleston.

Best Advocate — Levolia Rhodes, Goose Creek and Lisa Bullard, city of North Charleston.

Reach Christina Elmore at 937-5908 or at Twitter.com/celmorePC.