Greenville News – Aug, 4 2012
On Sunday morning, June 8, 2008, a 19-year-old Greenville woman was jogging in her neighborhood as she did most mornings. An unknown man sprang from the bushes, knocking her down an embankment. Though she fought back, she was no match for her assailant who sexually assaulted and severely beat her. Because the State Office of Victim’s Assistant (SOVA) was unable to cover the entire array of her medical expenses, the community rose to action and organized a charity 5k to help.
This morning, almost 600 pre-registered women, men and children runners will stand shoulder to shoulder in Cleveland Park for the Fourth Annual Julie Valentine Center Run2Overcome. While some runners will participate in the 5k run, others will endeavor to complete the 10k run commencing at 7:30 a.m.
Where are you as the sun rises over downtown Greenville this morning? Are you a part of the “coming together” to honor and raise money for the numerous women and children who have fallen victim to the crimes of sexual violence and child abuse?
What better place to stand tall and run far but in the congressional district where Congressman Trey Gowdy was recently tasked with serving on the Conference Committee on Violence Against Women Act. Following a floor speech reminiscent of speeches revered in history books, Congressman Gowdy called on all Americans to “pick up some humanity and embrace the fact that even in a political environment as dysfunctional as this one we can find common ground in fighting for those who have no voice.”
This morning in Greenville, it appears those words were heard. There are men and children, Tigers and Gamecocks, locals and visitors, and most importantly, there are women. Women of all ages, races, shapes, sharing different political views and celebrating at different places of worship — coming together to support the Julie Valentine Center, which seeks to stop sexual violence and child abuse in Greenville and Pickens Counties.
Gowdy’s voice echoing in the Chamber insists that “Lady Justice doesn’t (pit one group of Americans against another) and politicians shouldn’t either.” Americans have an inalienable right to safety and the relief of knowing protection. Yet, imagine yourself in the shoes of an innocent child who is being abused and his confusion and anger. Imagine wondering if your home is safe and thinking there is nowhere left to turn. Lady Justice knows not from whence you come, only that you are an American.
The inspiration for the Julie Valentine Center comes from an infant who was found deceased in a wooded area in Greenville on a cold February day in 1990. The police named her Julie Valentine. Adopted by the community, her legacy has become a symbol of hope for those who have survived assault or child abuse.
Just as a name was attached to an abandoned child so long ago, abuse can only be curbed and fought if we remember victims are not numbers, they are people with names. We all carry the responsibility and thus a methodical overhaul of our current system, as proposed by Congressman Gowdy, is needed. “If we want to make women safer, change the way we draw juries, change the discovery rules, improve the rape shield statutes, but stop focusing on November’s election for just one afternoon, and wonder with me what good we could accomplish if we would stop the political games,” he said.
Likewise, individual initiatives like that of Greenville businessman and philanthropist Bob and Lisa Castellani should be applauded. They have commissioned an assessment of every aspect of our current system under the not-for-profit Silent Tears, playing a significant role in mapping the road for change.
As we take part in the Julie Valentine Center’s Run2Overcome this morning, we might recall the congressional floor speech, when Congressman Gowdy shared a story from his own experience as a prosecutor in the Upstate. While Congressman Gowdy’s story ends darkly, he reasoned that “if this bill fails it will be because those on the other side were so bent on making a point that they stopped caring about making a difference.”
This morning the Upstate came together as a community, not splintered … to make a difference instead of making a point.
Karen Floyd of Spartanburg is a former prosecutor for the 7th Judicial Circuit, and currently serves as the CEO of The Palladian Group and publisher of Palladian View. She can be reached at email@example.com..