BALOG COLUMN: Domestic violence against women an urgent issue in S.C.
There are no simple answers to solving criminal domestic violence, said Laura Hudson, executive director of the South Carolina Crime Victims' Council.
“It's a community issue, it's a law issue, it's a court issue,” Hudson said.
So there are no simple explanations to why South Carolina has climbed to the No. 2 spot on the ranking of states where women are killed by men.
That report, released last week by the Violence Policy Center in Washington, D.C., cites 2010 figures, in which 44 South Carolina women were murdered by men, putting us behind only Nevada.
Elmire Raven, executive director of the women's shelter My Sister's House, thinks we'll probably stay near the top of the list for the next few years. “I don't envision this getting any better.”
Real risks, real change
Hudson said we need to focus on education to combat the mindset prevalent among some Southern men, which she described as “my house, my truck, my dog, my motorcycle and my wife, and I'll do what I want to.” Our gun laws also don't particularly help, Hudson added. What was true in previous years continues to be true: the majority of women killed by men are killed with guns.
But there are bright spots, among them the dedicated criminal domestic violence courts under 9th Circuit Solicitor Scarlett Wilson, Hudson said.
She had less kind words for the places that send criminal domestic violence first offenders to diversionary court, which can often lead to the first offense being erased. When criminal domestic abuse escalates, Hudson said, “we may end up with a murder.”
That nearly happened to Penny Mims. The Ladson-area woman was found in her driveway after beiing shot by her husband before he shot and killed himself this past weekend. Records show they had a volatile relationship, and Mims was in the process of leaving her husband — something she had done before — according to authorities.
The same constraints that make it harder for all families to make ends meet make it that much harder for a woman to leave an abusive relationship.
But not leaving can have fatal consequences.
“We know that domestic violence victims who are able to secure housing are twice as likely to maintain their independence and not go back to an abusive situation,” Hudson said.
And that's where someplace like My Sister's House comes in. Providing women in need with a temporary home in a shelter, and first months' rent and money to start paying utilities, can be enough to make the difference in someone's life.
The shelter's crisis line can be reached at 744-3242 or 800-273-4673. The shelter's website, www.mysistershouse.org, has volunteer applications for those who can help.
“No one deserves to be abused,” Raven said.
And South Carolina's criminal domestic violence victims deserve whatever help they can get.
Reach Digital Editor Melanie Balog at email@example.com
Editor's note: Earlier published versions of this story needed clarification with respect to the shooting of Penny Mims.