Columbia, SC — Sadly, domestic violence is still not a priority in South Carolina, as evidenced by the recent report by the Violence Policy Center that ranked our state No. 1 in the nation for women who are killed by men, with a rate more than double the national average. South Carolina has been ranked in the top 10 for a decade and No. 1 for three of those years.
Unless it affects us or someone we know, domestic violence remains a hidden problem. That is an outgrowth of our culture: Until our communities hold domestic violence to be a shameful crime, much like DUI or child abuse, our silence indicates approval.
It takes a full community response to combat the growing problem of domestic violence.
We must stop asking “Why doesn’t she just leave?” and instead hold the abuser accountable. Attitudes in South Carolina about the roles of men and women, the “what happens at home stays at home” mentality and the use of traditional gender roles to justify having power and control over one’s spouse create a lethal combination. A victim is in more danger as she is leaving the abusive relationship.
Our state needs to provide meaningful resources to help victims, such as:
• Legal advocacy for victims who need assistance in family courts.
• Safe and affordable housing for victims who choose to leave.
• Resources and services for the victims of teen dating violence.
• Consistent, across-the-board accountability for perpetrators of domestic violence.
• Resources for effective batterer-treatment programs.
We also need primary prevention programs. What few resources we have are focused on intervention. We are not appropriately teaching our children how to have healthy relationships and are not devoting resources to prevent relationship violence.
We have to admit we need to change. And then we can begin that change by using best-practice protocols gleaned from states that have begun to see reductions in domestic violence.
As Domestic Violence Awareness Month draws toward a conclusion, let this be a call to action to our legislative leaders and to our citizens to work together to find real solutions that will improve the safety and lives of women and families throughout our state.
S.C. Coalition Against Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault