Bill would bar abusers from shelters

COLUMBIA --- Abusers sometimes drive by the domestic-violence shelter, looking for their victims.

For a woman inside, that's all it takes to put her on edge, said Martha Lawrence, who works at the Lowcountry domestic-violence shelter.

"Somebody coming here onto the property, that would be very frightening," she said.

Even though the facility's location is confidential, she said, that doesn't stop some abusers from tracking their victims there.

But supporters of a bill sent to the Senate floor by a 16-2 vote Tuesday say the measure could provide some peace of mind to victims and a measure of deterrence to abusers.

The bill, which cleared the House last month, would make it a felony trespassing crime for someone to set foot on shelter property if he or she had been charged with domestic violence or is restricted by a personal protection order and has a household member inside the shelter.

Sen. John Hawkins, R-Spartanburg, warned that a woman at a shelter could use the bill to lure her abuser to the shelter as a way to get him arrested.

"She calls up and says, 'Hey, sweets, bring me my toothbrush,' " he said. "He gets hauled off to jail."

Reach Sarita Chourey at (803) 727-4257 or sarita.chourey@morris.com.