On September 26, SCOPE, College of Charleston’s Safe Campus Outreach, Prevention and Education Peer Team, held a candlelight vigil to honor the survivors of sexual assault and domestic violence. One such survivor is Christian Rainey.
Rainey, who is now captain of the North Charleston fire department, will never forget the day in 2006 when he got the call that his mother and four siblings had been murdered at the hands of his mother’s husband. Following their deaths, Rainey felt a call to action to inject a male perspective into the conversation on domestic abuse and he hasn’t stopped since.
A couple weeks after their deaths, Rainey planned a vigil for them at a local Walmart. With little time to prepare, the family expected only a few dozen people to show up. They were shocked when almost five hundred showed up to voice their support for the marginalized. The vigil even inspired some to come forward about their own abuse– members of Rainey’s own family, something that shocked him.
Following Mr. Rainey’s beautiful speech was an incredibly moving poem from College of Charleston senior, Grace Headrick. Grace’s poem was written to her rapist. Grace has worked closely with office of victim services over the past few years. Her empathy for survivors and beautiful words moved the crowd to tears.
The overarching theme of the night was how to end domestic abuse as a community. South Carolina is fifth in the nation for the deaths of women at the hands of men. Domestic violence is the leading cause of death for women under 45.
Rainey and Headrick shared the sentiment on Wednesday night that we are fighting more than violence, we are fighting an ingrained culture. The United States has reached a breaking point for toxic masculinity.
How can we eradicate something so horrific in a country that does not even respect women’s stories and would rather nominate a potential abuser to the highest court in the land than listen to a woman?
Emily Headrick had the perfect analogy for this issue. It is like there is a town on fire and we all keep trying to bring water to the town and it’s never enough, but we keep coming anyway. If someone could just take away the matches, everything would be different.
As an ally, no matter your gender, say something if you see bothersome behavior. Don’t allow the “boys will be boys” mentality to permeate our spaces. No one deserves to live a life in fear, or hear that your family has died at the hands of their abuser. This issue will take all of us, but eventually we will eradicate domestic violence, and we will a better society for it.