Attorney General Alan Wilson sets rally at Capitol to push domestic violence reform

South Carolina Attorney General Alan Wilson

South Carolina Attorney General Alan Wilson plans to host a rally at the Capitol with police and prosecutors Tuesday to demand that lawmakers reform the state's domestic violence laws in the coming legislative session.

The session begins Tuesday, and Wilson plans to make his case as legislators get down to business. The rally, dubbed a "Call to Action," is scheduled for 11:30 a.m. on the front steps of the Statehouse.

Wilson will be joined by 14th Circuit Solicitor Duffie Stone, Florence County Sheriff Kenney Boone, Charleston Police Chief Greg Mullen, Christan Rainey of Real Men Against Domestic Violence and Sara Barber, executive director of the S.C. Coalition Against Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault.

Wilson said the event will underscore that domestic violence is a pervasive problem that cuts across socio-economic lines, and that reform is long overdue.

"For years, law enforcement, prosecutors, and victim's advocates have been working together to combat domestic violence," Wilson said. "We stand united in proclaiming that we need immediate legislative action to provide the necessary tools, such as tougher penalties, to address that for years South Carolina has been ranked consistently in the top 10 for domestic violence. The sad reality is that you can beat your spouse and only get 30 days, but you can beat your dog and get five years."

The event will take place just hours before The Post and Courier teams with WCIV-TV and the College of Charleston to host a town hall forum on the fight against domestic violence in South Carolina. The one-hour forum, which is open to the public, takes place at 7 p.m. at the college's Sottile Theatre in Charleston and will be televised live on WCIV Channel 4 and partner stations WPDE in Florence and WACH in Columbia.

Both events follow The Post and Courier's investigative series, "Till Death Do Us Part," which revealed that more than 300 women had been killed in domestic violence in South Carolina over the past decade, dying at a rate of about one every 12 days while the state did little to stop the carnage.

Though state officials have long lamented the high death toll for women, lawmakers have put little money into prevention programs and have resisted efforts to toughen penalties for abusers. Last year, a dozen measures to combat domestic violence died in the Legislature. Legislative inaction on the issue has persisted for about a decade.

There are signs, however, that this year may be different.

A special House committee appointed in the wake of the series has been working to produce a comprehensive package of reform bills in time for the session's start.

The powerful chairman of South Carolina's Senate Judiciary Committee also has introduced a measure which would broaden and toughen criminal penalties for those charged with domestic violence. Sen. Larry Martin's bill also would prevent abusers from harassing victims and bars those convicted of domestic violence from possessing a gun, among other provisions.