Family of domestic violence victim push for protective laws

COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - It's a statistic you may have heard before: South Carolina leads the nation when it comes to the rate of men murdering women. Now one set of determined and grieving parents are petitioning lawmakers to expand the protections of those in teen dating relationships.

Last December, 18-year old Sierra Landry was shot and killed.

"All I seen was blue lights. Until I seen the red lights," said Landry's father, Robert. "I knew right then that it was bad."

Detectives say Sierra Landry's estranged boyfriend pulled the trigger -- a boy her parents say they tried to keep away from their daughter.

"I started noticing bruises on her and I would question her," said her mother, Jessica. "And she'd say, 'Oh its nothing. I fell.' He would call and say 'You'll never see her again,' and there was nothing we could do."

That's because there are no laws in South Carolina to specifically protect minors who experience violence in a teen dating relationship.

"If you're being stalked, if you're being threatened by someone who is not a member of your family, then there's no court in South Carolina that has the jurisdiction to give you an order of protection or restraining order," said South Carolina Representative Mandy Powers Norrell, who represents Lancaster.

Learning that, the Landry family began an online petition to change the law and quickly gathered 300,000 names. Soon enough, lawmakers began to take notice.

"We sort of as a culture have romanticized this pursuit," said Norrell. "This notion that he's grabbing her and she's fighting back. It's become a romantic notion in our culture and it just shouldn't be."

Recently introduced legislation seeks to allow minors to receive orders of protection and also require schools to teach students about dating violence.

"The hallways look different than they did, 20, 30, 40, 50 years ago," said Executive Director of Sistercare, Nancy Barton. "Close to a third of them admit they have experienced that in middle school or high school."

The Landrys hope that with enough attention future tragedies like the one that killed their daughter will be prevented.

"That was our daughter's life that ended," Jessica said. "There's nothing we can do to bring her back. But what we can do is speak out, be her voice."

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