Addressing Challenges at the Intersection of Mental Health and Violence Against Women

Alarmingly, domestic violence is the leading cause of injury to women in the Upstate of SC, more than muggings, stranger rapes and automobile accidents combined. And, both sexual abuse and domestic violence are associated with an increased risk for developing a number of psychiatric conditions or exacerbating existing mental health challenges. At the same time, living with a serious mental illness or disability may also increase a woman’s vulnerability to abuse.

Unfortunately, many victims of domestic and sexual violence and women with mental illness disabilities, are reluctant to seek help due to fear, shame, and the stigma of their experience. On October 1, 2009 Safe Harbor became one of only six organizations in the nation to be funded by the US Department of Justice, Office on Violence Against Women with a three-year $600,000 grant awarded to address challenges that  victims of violence with mental health disabilities confront when seeking services. 

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A bell tolled while 33 domestic violence homicide victims’ names, from 19 of South Carolina's 46 counties, were read aloud. This is the sound I remember after leaving the Silent Witness ceremony at the South Carolina State House last Tuesday. A summary was read of the 33 victims’ deaths as silhouettes representing each of the deceased were carried onto the granite steps of the State House. This is a moment I will never forget.
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