S.C. man turns horrific tragedy into compassionate activism

NORTH CHARLESTON, S.C. --October is National Domestic Violence month. According to the Violence Policy Center, more than 1,600 women are murdered by men each year, and 94 percent are killed by a man they knew.

South Carolina has the worst record for deadly domestic violence.

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Christian Rainey

CBS News

Christian Rainey, a North Charleston, South Carolina firefighter, is working to change that. He responds every day to people in crisis. But nothing will ever compare to the call he got in 2006.

"I got a phone call from my cousin telling me that I needed to fly home."

Detra Rainey, his mother, was murdered by her new husband, Michael Simmons. He also killed Rainey's four siblings.

Rainey says he lost everything on that day. "I call it everything, because it's everything to me."

Over the past decade, men killed 493 women in South Carolina. That's one every seven days.

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CBS News

Elmire Raven, a former police officer, runs a women's shelter in North Charleston. She was also once a victim of domestic violence.

"I think a lot of it has to to with our education, we have a lot of rural pockets in our state," she said of the violence in South Carolina. "People don't want to get involved in the domestic violence issue because they feel like it's really not their business."

Christan Rainey made it his business. The 30-year-old goes to fire and police stations, schools, anywhere that invites him. He counsels men about male culture and how they treat women. His non-profit called "Real Mad - Men Against Domestic Violence" gets victims and abusers help they need.

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Christian Rainey, center, with supporters of his non-profit, "Real Mad - Men Against Domestic Violence"

Christian Rainey

"Women can talk about domestic violence until they're blue in the face," said Rainey. "But when another man calls you out on it, it shines a different light on it."

Four months ago, Rainey helped push South Carolina to reform its domestic violence laws, stiffening penalties and banning abusers from having guns. But he knows that some things he can never change.

Rainey says the work he does is like therapy for him, and he knows his mother would be proud. "If she was here, she would be so proud of what I'm doing."

Rainey's passion for saving lives is a fire that will never go out.

  • Mark Strassmann

    Mark Strassmann was named CBS News Transportation correspondent in August 2011. He has been a CBS News correspondent since January 2001, and is based in the Atlanta bureau.