Bolton: South Carolinians should be sad to be ranked No. 1

Associate EditorOctober 6, 2013 

Warren Bolton

TIM DOMINICK/TDOMINICK@THESTATE.

— SOUTH Carolina is breeding men who kill women.

Men in the Palmetto State take the lives of wives, ex-wives, girlfriends, ex-girlfriends and other female acquaintances at an alarming rate. We’re so prolific at this horrific act that our state has consistently ranked in the top 10 in the country for the rate of women killed by men at least since 1999.

That’s 14 years of killers — one after another — extinguishing the lives of women.

And, recently, South Carolina once again raced to the top to become the No. 1 state in which women fall victims to this despicable and cowardly violence, according to a report released by the Violence Policy Center in Washington. In 2011, the most recent year for which figures were available, the rate at which women were murdered by men in South Carolina — 2.54 per 100,000 — was more than twice the national average. Sixty-one women, an average of more than one a week, were killed by men that year.

This is the third time the Violence Policy Center has ranked South Carolina No. 1: It also held the top spot in 2000 and 2003.

This must stop. But how?

Obviously, we must crack down even more on those who commit criminal domestic violence. Law enforcement must be vigilant about enforcing existing laws. Prosecutors, many of whom have placed more emphasis on domestic violence cases in recent years, must redouble their efforts. Lawmakers must make sure that the laws on the books are sufficient and up-to-date.

But we can’t eradicate this problem just by punishing abusers after the fact and giving women in danger all the love and support they need to have safer lives.

The public must do more to aid advocacy and support groups — from SisterCare to the S.C. Coalition Against Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault. It’s critical to promote awareness and prevention through events such as the Mayors Walk Against Domestic Violence, which will be held in Columbia next Saturday.

It’s good to see the disgust with which Attorney General Alan Wilson, whose office has a section of prosecutors and advocates focused on violence against women, respond to the sickening number of women who die at the hands of men in our state. Mr. Wilson said he was “reeling from the numbers.”

He said people in authority must do what they can to reduce the domestic-homicide rates. “We’ve all got to take responsibility for the numbers.”

He’s right. We’re all responsible. But the bulk of the responsibility should be shouldered by men. Yes, men in power and authority such as Mr. Wilson, must make this a priority through their deeds and their words. More importantly, it’s critical for all men — fathers, sons and brothers from all walks of life — to help end this violence.

All too often, domestic violence is seen as the woman’s problem, and even her fault. That’s a lie.

It’s the man’s problem and it won’t be resolved until men actively, openly and aggressively work to end domestic abuse and, ultimately, preserve the lives of dozens of women every year.

I know that men also get abused and even killed by women. We must address that as well. But let’s be real. Women are overwhelmingly the victims when it comes to domestic violence. Women account for about 85 percent of the victims of violence between intimate partners. One out of every four women will be abused at some point in her life; domestic violence — not car wrecks or cancer or robberies — is the leading cause of injuries to women. On average, more than three women are murdered by their husbands or partners every day.

There are around 36,000 domestic violence cases reported in our state each year. Just think about what we don’t know. It’s likely happening to someone we know, someone perhaps very close to you — or me.

Honestly, I’m angered any time I consider any of these statistics. We all should be. For South Carolina to remain locked in the top 10 in this ranking for so long, it’s clear that we are feeding and replenishing the ranks of the abusers. We must put more emphasis on preventing boys and young men from ever resorting to such violence. If we can stop raising abusers, we can stop the killing.

We men must be intentional by not only teaching our boys how to treasure, respect and protect women, but also by modeling that through how we treat our wives, daughters and other women. Let’s teach our boys that that violence is not an option.

Part of that must be a more intensified fight against the abuse of our kids — boys and girls. Statistics show that three-fourths of abusers were abused during childhood.

Is that an excuse to become an abuser later in life? Absolutely not. It’s a warning that if we don’t intervene, this likely won’t be the last time we will be able to say, “We’re No. 1.” And hate the thought of it.

Reach Mr. Bolton at (803) 771-8631 or wbolton@thestate.com.

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