Originally created 05/07/02

Curbing abuse in S.C.



If there's a statistic that South Carolina would most like to get rid of it's the disgraceful finding that the rate of men killing women in the state is twice the national average.

The study, by the Violence Policy Center, also reported that in 1999 - the last year such figures were available - nearly 54,000 domestic violence offenses were reported in the state, also exceeding the national average on a per capita basis.

So it's heartening to see Palmetto State lawmakers moving to bring down those ugly domestic abuse statistics. Now in the Senate Judiciary Committee is a bill that passed the House last week that would allow prosecutors to seek the death penalty for domestic violence murders.

The Domestic Violence Prevention Act of 2002 (HB 3056) would also empower a police officer to make an arrest if there is probable cause to believe a person has committed domestic violence, even if the act did not take place in front of the officer.

Fortunately, there's good reason to believe the Senate will pass this measure before adjourning next month and that the governor will sign it. The new law would not be a cure-all, but it would be an improvement over the status quo and get the state moving in the right direction.

But to fully move into the 21st century the issue should be revisited again next year to encourage more prosecutions of domestic violence abusers even when the victim won't cooperate. Abuse victims, especially those who feel financially dependent on their abusers, are often too frightened to help police.

In this regard, it would also help if the state contributed to creating more shelters for abused women and their children. Tougher law-enforcement helps, but it is not the whole answer to the domestic violence problem.