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South Carolina’s perennial high ranking in the rate of violence committed by men against women testifies to the difficulty of dealing with this pernicious problem.
South Carolina had the second-worst ranking in the nation for the rate of women killed by men. It was the second year in a row that the state has climbed in the rankings.
The new rating, from 2010, is up from seventh the previous year and ninth the year before that. Several years before that, the state was No. 1 and No. 2.
South Carolina for years has ranked among the 10 worst in the nation when it comes to violence against women. Despite conspicuous efforts at many levels to address the problem, it stubbornly persists.
In 2010, 46 women in the state were killed by men, giving South Carolina a rate of 1.94 per 100,000. Nationally, 1,800 women were killed by men, at a rate of 1.22 per 100,000.
Nevada had the highest rate of women being killed by men, but some experts have speculated that legalized prostitution in Nevada might have skewed the results to some degree. Tennessee ranked third in the nation.
In addition to women killed by men, tens of thousands more are victims of domestic violence. This is a crime where women, by and large, are victimized by men they know.
In 2006, state lawmakers stiffened penalties for repeat offenders and required special training for judges who try domestic violence cases. More prosecutors were hired to handle domestic violence cases.
Locally, the 16th Circuit Solicitor’s Office established a special court to review domestic violence cases twice a month. In cases that don’t involve more violent crimes, first-time offenders sometimes are given the option of intervention and treatment instead of jail time.
That is a progressive approach to the problem. The state needs to focus on offenders, some of whom can be successfully rehabilitated, as well as the victims.
We know that children who are raised in homes where domestic violence occurs are more likely to commit domestic violence or be victimized by it themselves. Early intervention might help break the cycle in some families.
We, as a society, need to encourage women in violent relationships to leave and seek help. And we need to establish safe havens, such as Rock Hill’s Safe Passage, which provide a refuge for women who need physical, spiritual and financial support after exiting an abusive relationship.
Relatives and neighbors who witness domestic violence also need to take an active role and report it to the proper authorities. Domestic violence has been a secret crime for too long, and bringing it into the open can save lives.
South Carolina might also benefit from increased efforts by sociologists and other public health experts to pinpoint why the state continually ranks so high in violence against women. What exactly are the factors that make this state more conducive to domestic violence than other states?
By now we should be aware that there are no easy or obvious solutions. If there were, the state would have embraced them.
The state isn’t hampered by a lack of will to address this issue but by a lack of good information about what fuels such a high level of violence and how to prevent it. We need to try harder to find the answers.