S.C. task force aims to curb culture of domestic abuse

The governor’s Domestic Violence Task Force continued its efforts on ways to improve its reach on the issue in the community.

A month after Gov. Nikki Haley signed into law a bill that increased penalties for domestic violence, a task force continues to work on how to address the attitudes, secrecy and culture that perpetuate abuse.

The Community Education and Outreach Division of the governor’s Domestic Violence Task Force met Wednesday to discuss ways to educate the community on helping their friends, family and co-workers who are being abused.

The group is part of the state’s response to The Post and Courier’s Pulitzer Prize-winning series “Till Death Do Us Part,” which documented how South Carolina is one of the deadliest states for women at the hands of husbands, boyfriends and exes. Divisions of the task force are expected to continue to meet through the end of the year before producing a final comprehensive report.

Ryan Hoffman, medical director of emergency services for Bon Secours St. Francis Health System, raised concerns Wednesday over the lack of staff training in emergency rooms on how to handle cases of suspected abuse.

“I think education should be encouraged for all (emergency department) staff,” Hoffman said. “I don’t want it to be just something we have to do; another check-box.”

Plus, the open layout of emergency rooms is not conducive for questioning possible victims, who often are accompanied by their abusers, Hoffman said. He added that he often “cheats” by asking an intake staffer to pull the suspected abuser to the side under the guise of confirming insurance information so he can question the injured person alone.

He said it’s important to find a way to get an abused person to open up because 44 percent of women who are killed by their partners visited an emergency department within two years prior to their death.

An FBI agent who also spoke brought up the angle of abuse in cases of human trafficking, which is the second most profitable criminal enterprise in the nation. The agent, who asked to not be named, said forms of human trafficking can involve domestic abuse, whether it’s physical, sexual or emotional.

She added that many of the girls who are trafficked and abused come from broken homes and are seeking a stable environment. Pimps offer that, she said, because they gain the trust of the girls by providing for them for a short while before telling the girls they now owe them.

The group also heard from Jeanette Rader, a regional representative of iHeartRadio, who spoke about the company’s potential reach through public service announcements.

Reach Cynthia Roldan at 708-5891.