Why do battered women keep living with battering men?

Fair question.

But don't read a perverse implication of shared responsibility into that leading question.

And on this second day of a comprehensive, Wednesday- through-Sunday Post and Courier "Till Death Do Us Part" series about the shameful prevalence of domestic violence in South Carolina, this non-battering man finds another question much more troubling - and perplexing:

How do the men who beat women live with themselves?

Back to the first question and its sad, familiar answers:

Women trapped in a lifestyle of physical abuse by men are often financially and/or emotionally dependent on their tormentors.

Such women also are often overmatched by domineering male bullies waging not just physical but psychological wars of wills upon them.

Heck, such women often, against all reason, love those creeps.

That makes the law-enforcement challenge of apprehending, convicting and deterring woman beaters tougher.

Sure, in this century new laws across the land, including here in South Carolina, require prosecution of domestic violence even when the abused party doesn't cooperate with the authorities.

But when victims won't testify, culprits frequently escape criminal accountability.

And just as many women can't seem to escape violent relationships, statistics show that South Carolina is trapped in a both literally and figuratively vicious cycle.

From Wednesday's "Till Death Do Us Part" opener:

"More than 300 women were shot, stabbed, strangled, beaten, bludgeoned or burned to death over the past decade by men in South Carolina, dying at a rate of one every 12 days while the state does little to stem the carnage from domestic abuse."

That horror reality show goes on and on in a state that's supposed to be a bastion of good manners and Southern hospitality.

We have ranked in the top 10 nationally in the rate of women killed by men for the last 10 years. That sickening streak includes three years when we were No. 1 in that domestic-violence-carnage category - including last year.

However, while our domestic-violence rate taints our state, mere numbers can't fully convey the tragic realities of this all-too-human, soul-crushing abomination: homes broken, children neglected, patterns of barbarity perpetuated, lives shattered.

And yes, lives ended.

Disgraceful reflection

Back to the galling question of how the brutes who beat women live with themselves:

Imagine you're just such a sorry excuse for a man. Imagine what you see when you look at that man in the mirror.

Now imagine that if you are a member of that loathsome club, the risks of your lowdown depravity just might extend beyond doing time.

In case you missed that threatening drift, imagine that some other men out there have some vengeful ideas of their own about how to punish you - outside the justice system - for your crimes against not just the state but any valid concept of manly honor.

Imagine that their self-righteous rage could turn you from the intimidator to the intimidated.

Role reversal: Now imagine that you're one of South Carolina's non-women-beating men. Imagine your mother, daughter, sister, aunt, niece or friend who happens to be a woman is beaten by her husband or boyfriend. Imagine you find out about it.

Imagine the possibilities of how you could react.

So with so many S.C. women being battered (and worse) by S.C. men, where are those victims' sons, fathers, brothers, uncles and friends who happen to be men?

OK, so taking the law into your own hands is no solution to this problem. After all, violence begets violence.

And though lots of woman beaters are cowards who much prefer hitting women to playing tough guy against other men, real life doesn't always follow the old-fashioned cowboy-movie plot of good guys winning nearly all brawls.

So how do we reduce our state's appalling frequency of men hitting, kicking, choking, clubbing, stabbing and shooting women?

<URL destination="http://www.postandcourier.com/tilldeath/partseven.html">The "Till Death Do Us Part" series offers numerous answers.

</URL>And just as South Carolina's policies about domestic violence must change, so must many South Carolinians' anachronistic attitudes.

Hit the road, jerk

In some Muslim countries, women are treated at best like second-class citizens, at worst like property.

We Americans - men and women - should know better, regardless of religious faith or lack thereof.

So if you're a South Carolinian, support proven methods to reduce domestic violence in our state.

If you're a South Carolina woman being beaten by a man, realize that you don't have to live - or die - like this.

Realize that you can - you must - get away from him.

And if you're a South Carolina man beating a woman, get lost.

Frank Wooten is assistant editor of The Post and Courier. His email is wooten@postandcourier.com.