Criminal domestic violence is literally a black eye on the state of South Carolina, and sometimes it's much, much more.
For Mercia King-Ellis, it meant a restraining order and a beating with a metal baseball bat before her attacker, her estranged husband, got scared off, then later took his own life.
For Tyler Richardson's 21-year-old ex-girlfriend, it allegedly meant getting tracked down and punched in the face by the father of her child.
For Christopher Glenn Mishowe's girlfriend, it allegedly meant he held her against her will, prompting a visit from the SWAT team and criminal domestic violence and kidnapping charges, for the second time in a year and a half.
And that's just in the past week.
King-Ellis said she was lucky to be alive, lucky to have escaped with bruises and 13 stitches in her head. That's because she could easily have become part of a different statistic, our state's unfortunate rank as No. 2 on the list of states where women are killed by men.
Among the initiatives unveiled as part of this year's Law Enforcement Legislative Agenda is a bill in the House sponsored by Rep. Peter McCoy, R-Charleston, that would broaden the definition of assault and battery.
In addition, legislation was introduced Tuesday to reauthorize the national Violence Against Women Act, which expired in September 2011. In addition to funding initiatives like the S.T.O.P. program, which stands for Services Training Officers and Prosecutors, it also would expand its coverage and definition of victims.
The S.T.O.P. program “utilizes prosecutors dedicated to criminal domestic violence cases, better educates judges and law enforcement officers, and supports the creation of more Criminal Domestic Violence Courts,” said Attorney General Alan Wilson.
There were more than 48,000 victims of domestic violence in South Carolina in 2010, according to statistics on the website for My Sister's House.
“Attitudes have changed in recent years, and domestic violence is now recognized for the crime it is rather than a shameful secret,” Wilson said.
But victims of domestic violence are three times more likely to be victimized again than are victims of other types of crimes, because initial crimes often go unreported.
Education can help break the cycle, teaching our sons, brothers, nephews and grandsons what it means to be good men and what role they can play in preventing domestic violence.
“It's time we stop telling victims what to do, and start telling abusers what not to do,” said Pamela Jacobs, executive director of the S.C. Coalition Against Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault, upon the release of the Violence Policy Center report last fall.
That combined approach can help reduce crimes and, as Jacobs has said, save lives. Anything that can be done at a state and national level to move toward that goal is a step in the right direction.