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Violence Against Women in South Carolina

Violence against women is an international crisis. For me, "Think Globally; Act Locally" applies directly to this issue.

When I first moved to Columbia, SC, my husband and I took a horse-drawn carriage tour of the old city. Our tour guide stopped in front of the State House and mused about an archaic law still on the books.

“It’s completely legal to beat your wife on the steps of the State House on Sundays. You can look it up.”

Believing our tour guide was just being sarcastic, I did look it up. I was floored. That offensive law is indeed still “on the books”. Granted, there are many similar asinine and outdated laws in other states, but South Carolina has a unique problem—its disgraceful record.

In 2015, South Carolina ranked first in the nation for violence against women, with annual statistics for women murdered by men that doubled the national average. For the past 18 years, South Carolina has made the dreaded Top 10 list for states with the highest rates of violence against women.

The average first-time offender for assaulting a wife or girlfriend will serve less than 30 days in jail. We are behind our close Deep South neighbors on this front, as both Georgia and Alabama ensure the maximum penalty for a first offense is one year.

South Carolina also has no legal provision for removing weapons from a convicted offender’s home and votes on these measures have died in the state congress. This is despite the fact that 1 in 5 murders of women in SC are committed by armed men who were barred by federal law from owning a gun in the first place.

Why is violence against women so pervasive in South Carolina? Is it a deeply-rooted culture whose traditional view of women involves submission and silence? It’s hard to think that might be the case in a state governed by Nikki Haley, but the historical role of the demure and acquiescing female is certainly a factor.

We don’t just need a legislative overhaul. We need a paradigm shift.

Women deserve a voice and authorities who will back them up when they’re attacked—even if their attackers happen to be their boyfriends or husbands. Even in South Carolina.

Are the circumstances better in your state? Feel free to weigh in on violence against women in the comments or email.

For more on this topic—The Walter Edgar’s Journal interviewed the Pulitzer Prize winning journalists behind the Charleston Post and Courier series “Till Death Do Us Part”, which examines the problem of domestic abuse and violence against women in South Carolina.

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