Within two weeks of meeting the man who would later become her abuser, Theresa Lacey had a ring on her finger. He was handsome, kind and funny. He liked reading and the beach, she said, just like she did. And he promised she could stay home with any kids they had, and he would golf on the weekends.
"All I had wanted in life was to be a mother," Lacey said. "I loved that idea."
The first time he hit her was three months into their relationship. It began with a blow to her face, she said, and got much worse. He broke two of her ribs and her clavicle, she said. He attempted to strangle her.
Lacey left when their son was 21 months old, when it occurred to her that her husband might choose to hit the baby instead. That son is now 18 and a senior in high school. She has remarried.
Lacey told her story of intimate partner violence to a small crowd Wednesday on the Medical University of South Carolina campus. She advocated for improved domestic violence screening and for a reformed family court system at the university's annual "Do No Harm" rally.
Dresses hung from trees to commemorate those killed by domestic violence in 2016. Thirty-nine people died of domestic violence last year, said Karen Hughes, a sexual assault nurse examiner with MUSC. Their ages ranged from 21 to 70.
Hughes said MUSC now has a specialized social work program for victims of domestic violence. The program is about a year old. Three social workers are on call around the clock to address domestic violence cases. They offer services like safety planning for each patient.
She said she expects the number of social workers in the program to grow next year.
According to a report using 2015 data by the Violence Policy Center in Washington, South Carolina ranks fifth nationwide in the rate of women killed by men.