Task force: Domestic violence survivors can safely seek child support

The state domestic violence task force is working to inform survivors that they are able to safely seek child support from an abuser.

COLUMBIA — Victims of domestic violence should not be afraid to seek child support from their abuser, members of the governor’s task force are promoting in a new message.

“There are a number of people that don’t apply for child support because they’re afraid of the perpetrators,” Katie Morgan, chair of the division of services to victims and offenders for the Governor’s Domestic Violence Task Force said Friday.

“We know of instances where survivors needed the financial support, but they didn’t know how to get it,” she said. “So we can inform them that there is a safe way to get child support.”

Stephen Yarborough, assistant director of the Child Support Enforcement Division of the Department of Social Services, said the state is printing brochures to inform survivors of their options.

“If they tell their (case) worker, ‘I’m afraid of my spouse,’ that’s all they have to do,” he said, adding that safety measures will be taken to help. “But a lot of people don’t know that.”

The comments came as members of the task force’s met Friday to discuss their progress and prepare for a statewide domestic violence summit scheduled for either May or June.

Members are working to finalize policies for state agencies to help managers and employees learn how to help coworkers involved in domestic violence. Policies for screening and risk assessment for state agencies who deal with those seeking services also are being finalized.

Gov. Nikki Haley signed executive orders earlier this year to create the policies, which were suggested by the task force in 2015.

South Carolina has ranked first or near the top as the deadliest state for women at the hands of men for several years, largely while the Legislature ignored the death toll. The weaknesses were documented in 2014 in The Post and Courier’s Pulitzer Prize-winning series “Till Death Do Us Part.” The General Assembly last year passed domestic violence reforms as a result of the series.

Morgan said she is hopeful those numbers can turn around.

“With all of the work that we’ve been doing for the past year we’re bound to improve on that and change the culture of domestic violence,” she said.

Reach Maya T. Prabhu at 843-509-8933.