State News

Does South Carolina Judicial Officials Understand The Issues of Domestic Violence And Its True Effects On Victims

South Carolina still ranks 6th in the Nation for Domestic Violence and many victims both men and women still are unable to receive adequate help or justice.

South Carolina’s numbers for Domestic Violence looked like this in 2021 according to NCADV (National Coalition Against Dometic Violence):

● 42.3% of South Carolinian women and 29.2% of South Carolinian men experience intimate partner
physical violence, intimate partner sexual violence, and/or intimate partner stalking in their lifetimes.
● In 2019, 36 women and 6 men were victims of domestic violence homicide.3 78.5% of these homicides
were committed with firearms.
● On a single day in 2020, South Carolina domestic violence programs served 620 victims of domestic
violence and received 101 hotline calls, averaging four contacts per hour. 134 requests for services on this
day could not be provided due to lack of resources.
● As of December 31, 2020, South Carolina had submitted eight misdemeanor domestic violence
convictions and 19 active protective order records to the NICS Index.
● Between 2006 and 2015, there were 2,810 active protection orders in the National Crime Information
Center for South Carolina, 1,912 of which had a disqualifying Brady Indicator.

South Carolina has programs and offices for victims to seek assistance such as the South Carolina Coalition Against Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault, Sister Care of the Midlands, and many other shelters and programs. This includes The Department of Social Services (DSS), but many times victims who go to DSS as we have found out receive minimum assistance and in many cases are re-victimized. This is especially true if children are involved and the case is before a Domestic Relations Court (Family Court).

In speaking with a group of Domestic Violence Victims we were shocked by some of the stories from these survivors. These stories ranged from Law Enforcements lack of actions and straight-out threats from attorneys who represented the abuser. Some victims even told us that the shelters they went to stated they had no room for the victims with children. Male victims discovered that shelters for them are nearly non-existent. But several of the victims stated one solidified theme, that in the Domestic Relations Courts they found Judges completely unaware of what a victim’s mentality is/was and this was used against them.

Domestic Violence is not simply a physical action, far from it. In many cases, it starts off with psychological abuse along with the isolation of the victim. Which in some cases can be so severe that a victim will be forced to live with it the rest of their life and never truly be able to move forward.

Many of these victims confessed to us that they began to self-medicate to deal with all the psychological abuse. It is hard to believe that most domestic violence victims state they could endure physical abuse, which ranged from being raped and beaten. But for many, it was the psychological abuse they underwent that was more horrific.

A few of the victims told us that for them alcohol was their way of dealing with such intense psychological abuse. That they drank daily in large amounts ranging from 1 liter to 4 liters a day, leaving them mentally unconscious. And in some cases reverting back to a child-like mentality. And that this fact was used against them in the courtroom.

Domestic Violence psychological damage is used against many victims in our legal system. DSS uses it in many cases to remove the victim’s children from their care and places them in the state’s foster care system. Under the guise of the victim not being fit to care for the children due to the abuse or the self-medication, and in some instances state the victim showed little care for the children by not leaving sooner. Some of the victims informed us it was due to their children now being targeted by the abuser that the decision for them to leave was made, in order to protect their children.

Judges are not educated in the psychology of Domestic Violence Mentality, and for that neither is most of the general public. Victims are always asked, “Well why didn’t you just leave?” In many cases, it was not that simple. These victims were programmed to obey and endure the abuse, And sadly in one known case the victim was raised in abuse, it was all the victim knew of life.

Judges and attorney’s in South Carolina are required to continue their legal education with courses called CLE(Continued Legal Education). But these courses are simply on legal aspects of the law, none of them cover the psychological damage of victims. And most Judges or attorneys do not take courses in psychology as a general practice.

Judges are left with only what an attorney presents to them, and in many domestic violence, cases fail to include the mental torment the victims underwent. It is important to also state here that South Carolina has no free counseling for victims of Domestic Violence outside of very few private organizations.

This lack of education or knowledge by judges in many reviewed cases has left the victim of the abuse being painted in court as unfit or unstable. When in truth it was due to the horrific mental abuse many of them underwent that made them self-medicate or self-mutilate.

Should judges be required to be educated in the psychology of Domestic Abuse in order to properly understand the full damage that was done by the abuser? Or should judges order evaluations for a professional to determine the psychological damage and then report it to the courts, for the courts to have a full understanding?

These and many other aspects of Domestic Violence need to be asked of our judicial courts and of our legislators who make the laws. South Carolina does recognize mental abuse but seems to fail in classifying it or treating it for victims who seek help.


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