Velencia Compton's life should not have ended this way: "Police: Port Royal sailor killed in dispute."
The 21-year-old Navy corpsman had a future as bright as her smile.
Compton's work ethic, motivation and dream to someday be a Navy dentist left an indelible mark on the tight family of fellow workers at the Naval Hospital Beaufort.
"Everyone who knew her believed that there was a very good chance she would reach that goal," the hospital's executive officer said.
Instead of leading a life of excellence, Compton died a statistic that is alarmingly common.
She was murdered in her Port Royal apartment Jan. 26.
The doting mother of a 3-year-old son was shot in the head by her ex-boyfriend, authorities say. Leo DeAndre Scott had come bearing roses, but also a gun. Authorities say he hoped to reunite with the mother of his child, but when an argument ensued, he killed her and fled in her car with the baby.
He dropped the toddler off with family in Columbus, Ga., and disappeared. After a two-week search for Scott, police surrounded an apartment where he was holed up, they planned to charge him with murder. During the standoff, they heard a shot from within. They found Scott dead of a self-inflicted gunshot wound.
The case will never be unraveled in court.
But the plot is painfully familiar to those whose life work is to prevent domestic violence, and mend its victims and consequences.
South Carolina ranks seventh in the nation in the rate of women killed by men. Its been at or near the top of the list since the nonprofit Violence Policy Center in Washington, D.C., started tracking the grim statistic.
"Lethality is always, always an issue" in what the experts call "intimate partner violence," said Kristin Dubrowski, executive director of CODA in Beaufort. "It's a real, real concern."
CODA -- formed in 1986 as Citizens Opposed to Domestic Abuse to shelter the abused -- says that 87 percent to 95 percent of the reported cases of domestic violence involve female victims and male perpetrators.
Dubrowski's casework shows that women can be most vulnerable when they do what everyone on the sidelines says they should do: leave the bum.
"People ask, 'Why doesn't she just leave?' This is one of the reasons why," Dubrowski said.
Compton's case made the headlines, but most domestic violence doesn't.
It's hidden in the home. Or it turns up in cases played out in Family Court, the Department of Social Services, or the nonprofit organizations trying to stem the flow of violence.
Three volunteer-driven nonprofits are collaborating on a new tack to stop the cycle. CODA, CAPA of Beaufort (Child Abuse Prevention Association) and Hope Haven of the Lowcountry are trying to redefine masculinity and manhood for students in Beaufort County middle schools and high schools. They sponsor the MOST Club, standing for Men of Strength Club, now serving 145 boys in six schools.
"We call this primary intervention because it addresses the root of the problem rather than put on a Band-Aid," said Shauw Chin Capps, executive director of Hope Haven. "The hope is to change future generations so that violence is no longer seen as the norm in defining masculinity."
The same three organizations are piloting this week another program in the schools called Building Violence-Free Relationships.
"It's a long-term process," Capps said. "There's no easy fix."
Meanwhile, the nonprofits sticking their necks into the battle can use donations and volunteers. And the community as a whole must recognize and identify domestic violence. People need to realize that it crosses into all neighborhoods, and that it shuts down beautiful, promising lives of motivated young mothers like Velencia Compton.