This editorial, written by Safe Harbor’s Executive Director Becky Callaham, is from the Seneca Daily Journal on June 15, 2011.
I would like to respond to the letter to Ask Willie on 6/2/11 regarding domestic violence in Oconee County. The reader is correct in noticing that domestic violence is a significant problem in our community. Based on the most recent numbers (from 2008), South Carolina ranks 9th in the nation for deaths due to domestic violence.
In May 2010, the SC Department of Public Safety published a significant study comparing rates of domestic violence throughout South Carolina from 2004-2008. Domestic violence accounted for 40.6% of all reported violence between 2004-2008. One quarter of all homicides in South Carolina during this period were committed by an intimate partner or family member. In this study, which was based on reports from law enforcement, Oconee County ranked 27th in the state for domestic violence victimization with 498 reported cases of domestic violence in 2008. The deaths due to domestic violence in 2009 (the most current year for which we have statewide statistics) were 2, down from 3 in 2008. In 2009, Oconee County tied with three other counties for the 4th highest rate of domestic violence deaths. Consider the impact of just one friend, sister, mother or daughter whose life is carelessly ended by the person who is supposed to love her.
Oddly, according to this study from 2004-2009, the rate of reported domestic violence has decreased from 2004 to 2008 by 57. But it does seem to be increasing, doesn’t it? Even so, decreased numbers from an already deplorable reputation for domestic violence in South Carolina doesn’t feel very comforting.
Also in 2008, Safe Harbor completed a study of 430 Oconee County residents and found that 77% felt as if domestic violence was a significant problem for the county. Almost half (47%) knew someone in the county who had been a victim of domestic violence in the year prior to our study. Thirty four percent of these residents indicated that the abuse was ongoing. Just like the reader of the Journal and Willie, we all know it is happening! Why aren’t the numbers of arrests supporting this anecdotal knowledge?
National statistics tell us that only 1/3 of victims ever report their victimization. From Safe Harbor’s study, we found that 56% of these noted domestic violence victims did not seek help. The reasons we found for this phenomenon in Oconee County (54%) was reported as “too scared to leave or get help”, lack of information about how to get help, lack of a local safe shelter, and difficulty accessing legal protection. Clearly, we have a problem.
Now, the good news–Safe Harbor is committed to working in Oconee County to provide access to quality local domestic violence services. We currently provide emergency shelter (albeit only in Anderson and Greenville currently), community outreach and education, community counseling specifically for Oconee County, domestic violence prevention programming in all Oconee County high schools. Our goals to increase services for Oconee County are to:
- Build or purchase a 24 hour crisis shelter for victims and their children
- Expand our Community Counseling program to allow victims the opportunity to have free, confidential, individual and group counseling for victims who don’t want or need shelter
- Provide children’s counseling programming for children who are living in the shelter and those in our community
- Provide case management services to assist each shelter resident to access and develop new resources for long term independence and abuse free lives.
- Provide comprehensive follow up services, including transitional housing, for shelter residents and their children
- Increase capacity for our dating violence education program
- Expand our capacity to provide legal advocacy and services, domestic violence outreach and community education, including within faith communities
- Raise community awareness of the prevalence of domestic violence and the work that Safe Harbor is doing to provide hope and healing to victims and their children.
A group of dedicated community leaders in Oconee County are working tirelessly on building the foundation for these goals to be achieved. Darragh Geist, Elisabeth Gadd, Vanessa Woods, Jim Gadd, Jenna Henson, Martha Frady, Rhonda Morgan, Lisa Williams and Elaine Bailey are working on a plan to divide and conquer domestic violence in Oconee County.
Please join us in our effort to make a difference in the lives of victims of domestic violence. Domestic violence does not discriminate. It affects all socioeconomic levels of Oconee County..all ages, all races. Even men can be victims of domestic violence. I’m sure you know someone who has been affected by domestic violence.
Historically, domestic violence has been a shameful, taboo topic. Silence only makes it more powerful. Join me in speaking out, speaking up and working to end domestic violence in Oconee County. Please contact me or one of our Oconee stakeholders listed above to hear more about our plans and to get involved in making every home in Oconee County a safe home.
Becky Callaham, Safe Harbor Executive Director