Palmetto Sunrise: Domestic violence bill viewed as start, not end

A silent witness ceremony. The Legislature passed a domestic violence reform bill Thursday.

A domestic violence reform bill eeked across the finish line Thursday, despite some last minute protests from Democrats who said the bill is flawed and doesn’t do enough to treat batterers.

As the Post and Courier reported over the weekend, the bill that passed was touted as a good start on an issue that has plagued the state for years. But advocates and officials say they don’t want to stop there.

Some worry that may happen. Rep. Gilda Cobb-Hunter, D-Orangeburg, said placing the state’s treatment programs under local solicitors is a conflict of interest and won’t assure statewide accountability. She told her House colleagues that she doesn’t want it to be 20 years to revisit the issue.

Others agree. They say reversing the state’s disturbing domestic violence trends will take a dramatic shift in the way men view violence and women — something advocates say could take a generation. It will also require funding for treatment programs, training and shelters, a get-tough approach from prosecutors and a better understanding of what’s happening across the state around the issue, among other initiatives.

They also want to make sure the law the Legislature passed works well.

Duffie Stone, a Lowcountry prosecutor, said law enforcement must intervene as soon as possible. He recounted a case where a man first ripped out his wife’s car stereo. Later on, he shot at her from his car, missing. So when tension continued to escalate and he fired a fatal bullet through his wife’s window as both drove down a street in separate cars, it was the culmination of events long set in motion.

“It’s not a freak event,” Stone said. “It’s an inevitable conclusion.”

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