Victims Matter Rally brings together violent crime survivors, advocates for change

COLUMBIA, SC (WOLO) — Survivors of violent crime and advocates for change joined together for the 2nd annual Victims Matter Rally at the State House Tuesday morning.

Family, friends, and advocates of victims shared their stories — many of whom are still seeking justice for their loved ones.

Sarah Ford, Legal Director for the South Carolina Victims Assistance Network, says that more justice can be served for survivors of violent crime by simply enforcing laws that are already in place.

“Victims have the right to be notified. They have the right to be present. They have the right to be heard at bonds at hearings, and we see far too often that those laws that are constitutionally based, are not upheld,” says Ford.

Chantelle Mitchell is a survivor of domestic violence and advocates with a group called Women of Action. Mitchell says her ex-partner tried to take her life nine years ago in front of her children.

“I decided that I was not going to be silent. I’m here for a reason and I will walk in my purpose, and that means telling my story so laws can change,” says Mitchell, who also encourages other women and men who are victims of domestic violence to reach out for help.

“So walking away can be a very scary situation, and believe me it’s not easy at all, but when you realize how strong you are for just making that step and seeing that you no longer have to be a victim, you will understand how you will feel so much happier and proud for making that step,” Mitchell says.

Susan Smith, mother of Stephen Smith who was found dead on a road in Hampton County in 2015, spoke at Tuesday’s rally.  Stephen’s death was ruled a homicide in March, 2023.

Smith says, “That was the best information that I’ve had in a long time. I’ve waited so long to hear that. Because I knew it was a homicide. I just had to get people to believe Stephen’s story. That was a great day.”

A second autopsy was performed on Stephen’s body in April. Buster Murdaugh, the son of convicted murderer Alex Murdaugh, has denied having anything to do with Stephen’s death.

“My voice is to help people that’s in my situation. And you just have to keep fighting. No matter what people tell you, you don’t listen, you just keep on. They might put a gag order on you or whatever, but it’ll be ok. You just keep talking and keep fighting,” says Smith.

Categories: Local News, News