Domestic violence leading to more crime in Lowcountry

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South Carolina is in the top ranking for the number of female domestic homicides.

For more than a decade, the Palmetto State has been in The Violence Policy Center’s list of top 10 domestic violence deaths of women.

This year, South Carolina comes in at number 6.

In 2017, there were 40 people murdered by household members in South Carolina, 29 of which were women. Guns were the primary weapon used in these homicides.

And in 55 percent of the cases, a gunshot wound was listed as the primary cause of death. 

23 different counties, including Beaufort, Hampton and Jasper all recorded at least one domestic homicide. That’s the end result of a crime which starts at home.

A local crime prosecutor hopes to put a stop to before it turns deadly.

“Domestic violence is probably the number one crime problem in South Carolina,” says Duffie Stone, 14th Circuit Solicitor.

Stone says 40 percent of the violent crimes experienced are actually domestic. As many as 90 percent of domestic violence victims never report or want to prosecute.

“We all recognize there is no such thing as a first offense domestic violence. It may be the first time police were called, it may be the first time the victim reached out for help, it may be the first time a neighbor heard something and picked up the phone. I think that’s changing,” Stone said.

He explained that more people are becoming aware of domestic violence and the issues within the state. Stone believes more people are becoming comfortable with reporting incidents.

“What we are trying to do is reverse a culture and a trend that’s been going on for decades,” said Stone. “It’s not going to e a quick fix. It’s not something their immediately going to turn around.”

That culture of crime was arguably ignored for years. Police and Sheriff’s departments prosecuted their own cases in Magistrate Court — if a case got to court at all.

“What I didn’t like was a domestic violence case being prosecuted in the same courtroom as someone going 55 in a 35,” explains Stone. “It’s not the same type of crime and I don’t think it should be treated that way.”

To hopefully stop that from happening, Stone is taking all domestic violence services under one roof.

By December, his office will open a victim’s processing center in the Solicitor’s building. Hopeful Horizons, legal aid and other service providers will be in the same spot.

“When we meet with a victim we can literally walk them down the hall and give them access to counseling give them access to emergency housing, give them access to a lawyer that can help them with a restraining order,” he explained. “I still want them to feel comfortable coming and getting those victims services and we will do everything we can to help them do it. It doesn’t have to have a warrant or an indictment behind it.”

Stone says his office will also look deeper into the domestic homicide issue, to see how the trends with that crime affect all others in his district.

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