South Carolina among top 10 states in which women are killed by men

Moncks Corner Police work the scene of a murder/suicide in July 2011. Former SLED agent Charles Boyette shot and killed Mary Ann Cox, a former love interest, near the ATM behind the Southcoast Community Bank on July 22, 2011.

These scenes played out in the Lowcountry this month and only a week apart. And in both cases, the woman was married to her attacker, officials said.

In West Ashley, a man allegedly stabbed his wife in the neck and left her dead body by the front door with their two daughters, 4 and 2, inside the home. Deputies arrested Chesley "CJ" Black Jr. on murder charges.

And in a Colleton County courtroom, a 52-year-old Lodge man pleaded guilty to killing his wife of more than 20 years with a hunting rifle. Eli Meyers, who shot himself in an attempt to commit suicide after the attack, was sentenced to 30 years in prison for the crime.

The incidents are not isolated. South Carolina ranked No. 7 in the nation for the rate of women killed by men, according to a Violence Policy Center report released Tuesday, continuing the state's streak as among the most violent in America for women.

The ranking brought disappointment but little surprise to Elmire Raven, executive directorof My Sister's House, the only local domestic violence shelter for women.

"We were No. 9, so for us to once again regress, it does not make those of us who are advocates very happy," Raven said. "We know we have made considerable progress in many areas, but we continue to rank in the top 10 in the nation."

Part of that statistic, Raven said, could come from an increasingly diverse population that often needs education on domestic abuse laws, and on assurances that women can seek shelter safely.

My Sister's House serves women in Charleston, Berkeley and Dorchester counties, with space for 36 women and their children in a confidential location for as long as 60 days. The shelter works with the women during their stay to ensure permanent homes when they leave.

"Our ultimate goal is to assist that woman in remaining out of an abusive situation and remaining safe with her children," Raven said.

Rebecca Williams-Agee, policy and prevention specialist for the S.C. Coalition Against Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault in Columbia, said the violent trend should not be blamed on the recession. "A bad economy does not cause domestic violence," she said. "It may enhance it."

One answer, she said, is to begin teaching children at a young age what acceptable behavior is in a household and what a healthy relationship is. If children see violence in the home, they can come to consider it acceptable, Williams-Agee said.

"The tendencies are there, but it doesn't create it," she added of today's economic pressures. She continued, "It's not putting the problem where it needs to be, which is on the perpetrator."

Raven pointed out that women can call a 24-hour crisis line for My Sister's House at 744-3242. Even if they don't stay at the shelter, they can attend support groups weekly.

"It's important for the community to know that domestic violence is everybody's business, and it does exist in our community," Raven said.