Being No. 1 isn’t always a good thing.
South Carolina is again the top state in the nation for deadly violence against women, according to a report released by the Violence Policy Center.
Ellen Hamilton, executive director of the Pee Dee Coalition, informed Chesterfield County Council members of the news during the council’s Oct. 7 meeting.
“We are No. 1 again. Sorry to say that,” she said before the council signed a proclamation designating October as Domestic Violence Awareness Month in Chesterfield County. Hamilton thanked council members for their support and asked them to spread the word this month.
Pee Dee Coalition victim advocate Tierra Cash later provided specifics on the services her organization has provided to Chesterfield County from July 2014 through June 2015.
The coalition helped 50 families and victims of violent crimes, Cash said, providing 609 nights of shelter to 15 women and children in Chesterfield County. The average stay was 41 nights per person.
Twenty-two families participated in ATV programs. The coalition reached 102 children during four educational classes in the county. Two sexual assault victims were assisted. Ninety-four young people were reached during five Reducing Our Adult Risk activities.
The coalition also holds community education classes. During the last fiscal year, 931 citizens that attended the classes. There was one session held with 210 area professionals attending. With parent education and support groups throughout the year, 30 parents were helped.
The state had a rate of 2.32 women killed per 100,000 people in 2013, which is the last year for which statistics are available.
For the past 18 years, South Carolina has been in the top 10 and has been ranked the worst in the nation for domestic violence four times.
The study found that nationwide, 94 percent of women murdered by men were killed by someone they knew, and the most common weapon used was a gun.
The Post & Courier in Charleston published a seven-part special report, “Till Death Do Us Part,” on domestic violence homicides in the state. Those stories prompted the Domestic Violence Reform Act, which ratchets up the penalties for defendants convicted of domestic assaults.
State Rep. Patricia Henegan, D-Marlboro, co-sponsored the bill, which was introduced on Jan. 27 and signed by Gov. Nikki Haley on June 4.
Charges will now be based on a combination of the severity of the abuse and the number of offenses and circumstances surrounding the crime. The law also bans some batterers from having guns.
The Charleston newspaper’s series on domestic violence won American journalism’s highest honor, the Pulitzer Prize for public service, in April.
Kristen Rand of the Violence Policy Center commended states including South Carolina for tackling the issue but said more improvement is clearly needed.
“Yet in the face of these alarming statistics, more needs to be done at the federal and state levels to protect women from abuse and prevent future tragedies,” Rand said.
Reach Maria D. Grandy at 843-537-5261.