A history of violence

Domestic disputes are deadly problems in South Carolina and nationwide

We expect much from law enforcement officers, as they work gut-wrenching scenes of slayings and auto accidents.

But ask many officers which cases are consistently the toughest to manage and resolve, and they’ll tell you in two words:
domestic violence.

October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month, and South Carolina owns an ignominious No. 1 ranking – the state leads the nation in the rate of men who kill women.

This is the third time the Violence Policy Center has placed South Carolina at the top. Last year it was second. It’s been somewhere in the center’s top 10 for the past 15 years.

The state of Georgia isn’t exactly covered in glory, either – it barely missed cracking the top 10 this year, placing 12th.

In Aiken County, during one particularly deadly stretch in July 2011, five women were killed in domestic violence incidents – in the presence of four children.

But few local incidents put the issue of deadly domestic violence in more stark relief than the tragic case last year of Cayce Vice.

Ms. Vice – and the baby she was pregnant with – died in a shooting either late Jan. 27 or early Jan. 28, 2012, in the Augusta apartment she shared with her boyfriend, Joshua Jones. He was taken into custody in Batesburg, S.C., after leading police on a chase. Jones was charged in the murders of Ms. Vice and of Aiken Public Safety Master Cpl. Sandy Rogers, who was shot in the head after answering a call of suspicious activity in Aiken’s Eustis Park the morning of Jan. 28.

Second Judicial Cir­cuit Solicitor J. Strom Thurmond Jr. told The Augusta Chronicle in August that his office still is awaiting results from a forensics investigation in the case by the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division. So, nearly two years after the shootings, Jones still is being held at the Aiken County Detention Center.

If Jones is found guilty, he’s looking at a potential death sentence. But on the other end of the domestic violence spectrum – the nonlethal cases – sentencing seems far too light.

A first-offender for criminal domestic violence in South Carolina can expect a maximum of just 30 days in jail. Is that fair? Ask yourself that question while picturing someone you love dearly as the victim. You’d want the guilty party placed under the jail, and for a fair sight longer than 30 days.

Changing sentencing laws would be left to the South Carolina General Assembly. Maybe during its next session – a plodding term typically sprawled over several months – they can carve out a bit of time to give these soulless thugs the sentences they more accurately deserve.

Fighting the problem of domestic violence can’t be confined to just this month. It shouldn’t be.

Purple Light Nights starts tonight at 7 p.m., on the Quadrangle Lawn of Georgia Regents University Augusta’s Summerville campus. The school is partnering with SafeHomes of Augusta for this event. Organizers ask that you bring old cell phones, gift cards and new household and children’s items to help abuse victims on a path back to normal lives.

And if you feel you are in an abusive relationship, there are people who can help. In South Carolina, one such place is Aiken’s Cumbee Center to Assist Abused Persons – (803) 649-0480. In Augusta, you can call SafeHomes at (706) 736-2499. Both agencies offer answers and options.

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