WALHALLA — An advocate for victims of abuse says the domestic violence deaths of five Oconee County residents in a week highlight the need for a local shelter.

The Independent-Mail of Anderson reports that prosecutors and advocates are bringing attention to the violence and asking for the community’s help.

Safe Harbor director Becky Callaham calls it an epidemic. She says Oconee County needs a domestic violence shelter. The nonprofit operates shelters in Anderson and Greenville, but Callaham says they can’t meet the need.

She says the nonprofit’s domestic violence caseload increased by 143 percent between 2009 and 2011, and 197 people had to be turned away.

There were two murder-suicides on July 6 and July 7. A third man died Tuesday after hitting his head as his girlfriend tried to drive away.