DOMESTIC VIOLENCE ADVOCATES AND SERVICE PROVIDERS URGE SENATE TO MOVE QUICKLY TO ADOPT STRONGEST DOMESTIC VIOLENCE LAW POSSIBLE
Senate Adjourns Amid Discussions on Weakening Senate Bill 3, Life-Saving Domestic Violence Bill Up for Debate
The State Senate adjourned on Thursday without taking action on Senate Bill 3, a life-saving domestic violence bill that would protect South Carolina’s victims of abuse. The bill would require stronger penalties for those convicted of abuse, streamline orders of protection for victims of abuse, and prohibit convicted domestic abusers, and abusers under active orders of protection, from possessing firearms – a key step toward reducing South Carolina’s deadly rate of domestic violence homicides.
The Senate adjourned amid discussion on a series of amendments that – if adopted – could seriously weaken the bill and despite fresh evidence that South Carolina voters overwhelmingly support the firearm prohibition in the bill.
One possible amendment discussed on the floor would seek to exempt abusers who have been convicted of criminal domestic violence in the third degree from the prohibition on possessing firearms. This class of offenders includes individuals who have battered and bruised their victims – typically during an ongoing pattern of coercion and abuse.
While the proposed amendment would give judges the option to order a defendant not to possess guns, magistrates in South Carolina are appointed by Senators. This could open a way for their views on firearm prohibitions to become a “litmus” test for appointment. The adoption of this amendment could lead to a disparity of outcomes across the state and decrease safety for many victims of domestic violence.
Between 2007 and 2011, women in South Carolina were twice as likely to be shot and killed by their intimate partners as the average American woman. Research also shows the presence of a gun in a domestic violence situation makes it five times more likely that the woman will be killed.
Federal law prohibits convicted domestic abusers from possessing firearms, but South Carolina’s weak domestic violence laws make it nearly impossible for state and local law enforcement to ensure domestic abusers who are legally prohibited from owning firearms do not possess them.
Efforts to strengthen the state’s domestic violence laws are widely supported by South Carolina voters. Three independent polls conducted between October 2014 and February 15, 2015 find that more than three-quarters of voters in South Carolina support policies that will keep guns out of domestic abusers’ hands. Almost two-thirds of those polled as recently as this month agree convicted abusers should turn in guns they already own.
“South Carolina’s domestic violence survivors have waited long enough for our elected leaders to address our state’s alarming record of domestic violence shootings. Now that we finally have a chance to take action to protect our state’s abuse victims, some senators are attempting to derail the progress we’ve made by attempting to undermine S.3’s vital goal, which is to save women’s lives,” said Sara Barber, SCCADVASA Executive Director. “It is imperative for the Senate to reject any amendments that would critically undermine the intentions of the bill’s sponsors and endanger the lives of domestic violence victims throughout our state.”
 Everytown analysis of data obtained from the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Supplementary Homicide Reports, 2008-2012, available online at http://bit.ly/1oWiuB3.
 Jacqueline C. Campbell, Daniel Webster, and Jane Koziol-McLain, “Risk Factors for Femicide in Abusive Relationships: Results from a Multisite Case Control Study,” American Journal of Public Health 93, no. 7 (June 2003): 1089-1097, http://1.usa.gov/1osjCet.
Christan Rainey, whose mother and siblings were shot and killed by his stepfather speaks about the importance of passing S.3 if we are serious about working towards reducing the toll of domestic violence.
S.3 will revoke convicted offenders’ ability to legally possess firearms and give law enforcement and prosecutors more tools to hold abusers accountable for committing this crime. The bill will have its first hearing on Tuesday, January 20 at 1pm. Call your Senator to urge them to support this important legislation.
By passing Senate Bill 03, South Carolina will join the movement to keep women safe. In 2014, six states (WI, MN, NH, VT, LA, WA) passed bills that will keep guns out of abusers’ hands. These measures passed with bipartisan support and were signed into law by governors of both parties.
Please take a moment to help victims of domestic violence and their children. Call, email or write your senator today, urging him/her to support Senate Bill 3!
Not sure what to say? Use our sample letter: http://ow.ly/Ht3j3
The South Carolina Coalition Against Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault (SCCADVASA) released the statement below from Executive Director Sara Barber today in response to the unanimous referral of S.3 from subcommittee to the Senate’s full Judiciary committee.
Between 2007 and 2011, women in South Carolina were twice as likely to be shot to death by their partners than the average American woman. S.3 would protect South Carolina families by prohibiting convicted domestic abusers and individuals subject to domestic violence orders of protection from legally possessing firearms.
Attorney General Alan Wilson, Senator Larry Martin and Speaker of the House, Jay Lucas, along with more than three dozen public officials – elected representatives, law enforcement officers, prosecutors, victim advocates, and domestic violence survivors – came together earlier this week at the State House to declare their shared commitment to do more to reduce domestic violence in South Carolina.
STATEMENT FROM SARA BARBER, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR OF SCCADVASA:
“We are so pleased to see lawmakers from both chambers and both sides of the aisle embrace the need to do more to hold domestic abusers accountable for their actions. By increasing penalties on domestic violence offenders and placing reasonable limits on firearm possession, S.3 marks an important step forward for South Carolina and its renewed dedication to protecting women and families across our state. This bill would go a long way to reducing the high cost of domestic violence on our families and in our communities.
“We urge lawmakers to consider reasonable measures that will ensure individuals who have been convicted of domestic violence or found through a due process legal proceeding to pose a danger to a partner in a domestic relationship do not have legal access to firearms. We look forward to working with lawmakers to incorporate these public safety measures into the bill.”
On Tuesday, SC Attorney General made a call to action for South Carolina legislators to pass reform to domestic violence laws in South Carolina.
SCCADVASA’s Executive Director, Sara Barber, spoke at this rally that happened in the Statehouse rotunda. Here is what she said,
“Stories of heartbreaking tragedy and loss like the one Christian just shared have been, and continue to be, far too common in our state. The silhouettes around us serve as a stark reminder of mothers and daughters, fathers and sons who have been taken from life and loved ones by extreme acts of domestic violence.
Many others continue to live in the tangled knot of domestic violence, held there by an overwhelming mixture of factors such as love, fear, faith, shame, guilt, financial instability or a lack of access to resources that could help. It is time for us as a state to ask survivors about their hopes and dreams, how systems can support their path forward, and to work towards solutions that meet the realities of their lives and needs. It is time that we no longer accept domestic violence as an ongoing tradition in our communities. It is time that we seek to address the cultural environment in which domestic violence continues to thrive.
Passing legislation that improves the ability of law enforcement and prosecutors to hold offenders accountable on many levels will be a meaningful and important step in this effort. Many of those gathered here today have been important leaders in building the momentum necessary to make meaningful changes to the legal landscape against which we address these crimes. On behalf of all the agencies working with survivors of domestic violence, I thank you for shining a light on an issue that even with 36,000 incidents reported to law enforcement each year, remains in many ways a silent epidemic.
Let’s not waste this momentum that has been built. It is time for us to make sure that positive change occurs, time to take action to make our state’s promise of “smiling faces, beautiful places” a reality for all our families and to show those who have experienced abuse from a loved one that we believe their lives matter.”
You can read more about this call to action rally here: Post and Courier
We wanted to share the Final Report done by Godly Response to Abuse in the Christian Environment (G.R.A.C.E.) on BJU regarding any and all complaints made to representatives of Bob Jones University or Bob Jones Academy related to sexual abuse.
Here is what our Executive Director, Sara Barber, initially had to say about the report “We hope that Bob Jones University is able to transform itself from an institution that has lost the trust of members of the community into one that engages in genuine and substantive change. The final report of the GRACE investigation points towards hopeful signs that BJU has started to take the necessary steps to better understand and prevent sexual assault while also providing focused services to survivors.”
Stay tuned for SCCADVASA’s officials response to the report.
2014 has been a momentous year for SCCADVASA – a year of strengthening our foundation and re/defining who we are as a coalition. In January, the Board of Directors which had always been comprised completely of member program representatives, welcomed community members from across the state into its ranks. The five new community-based board members, Pam Belkevitz, Hope Blakely, Kelli Scurry, Eddie Weinberg and Valerie Williams worked alongside member program representatives Ginny Waller, Becky Callaham, Lynn Hawkins, Kay Mixon and Tracy Bowie and Interim Executive Director Colleen Campbell Bozard to ensure continued forward momentum that honored SCCADVASA’s past while preparing the organization for further transition.
The Board focused on four primary goals in 2014, including continuing the search for a new Executive Director. Colleen Campbell Bozard worked closely with Ginny Waller and the Executive Transition Committee, which was made up of board members and other community leaders, to recruit and interview candidates. After an exhaustive search, the Committee was pleased to announce the appointment of Sara Barber to the Executive Director position at SCCADVASA’s annual meeting in May.
Under the leadership of Ginny Waller, Becky Callaham, Sharon Wilkinson and Rebecca Williams-Agee, SCCADVASA’s Legislative Committee grew in leaps and bounds. After many years of being spread too thinly, the committee focused on drawing in individuals and organizations outside of SCCADVASA’s traditional partnerships to help build consensus on legislation. The committee also renewed its commitment to evaluating the various concerns of SCCADVASA’s membership and the community in regards to sexual assault and domestic violence and to measuring its efficacy. In June, H. 3361 a bill to allow for the inclusion of pets in orders of protection that the committee supported was signed into law. The committee is currently focusing its efforts on addressing victim confidentiality and domestic violence homicide reduction. Both Sara Barber and Becky Callaham have provided testimony to the CDV Reform Committee.
Two ad-hoc committees were formed to address additional goals around increasing awareness of SCCADVASA and membership benefits and responsibilities. The ad-hoc Public Relations Committee, led by Pam Belkavitz, began its work by developing an elevator speech for board members to ensure consistency when discussing the organization. Over the summer, the ad-hoc Membership Committee led by Tracy Bowie and Amanda Wozniak-Woodruff, began the large task of reviewing and revising membership levels and benefits to not only help retain current members, but to also help attract new members.
I want to thank Lynn Hawkins, Kay Mixon, Ginny Waller, Becky Callaham and Tracy Bowie, all of whom will be transitioning off the board, for their leadership and service this year. When SCCADVASA’s board convenes in January 2015, it will be comprised of ten community members and four member program representatives. Under the leadership of the board and executive director and with the support of its member programs in 2015, SCCADVASA is truly poised to unite allies and unify voices across the state to demand an end to sexual assault and domestic violence.
2014 Board Chair
During Domestic Violence Awareness Month in October, SCCADVASA’s member agencies joined with the greater South Carolina community to honor the strength and courage displayed by survivors, and raise awareness of the issue at events held throughout the state. The Silent Witness Ceremony, held annually by the Attorney General’s Office provided a moment to pause and reflect while honoring the memory of those who lost their lives to domestic violence in 2013. As we look forward, efforts to engage the community and our state’s leaders in pursuing meaningful positive change will remain central to our mission.
The Columbia Museum of Art and SCCADVASA teamed up to present ¡Fuerza! This exhibition is located in the Community Gallery and confronts Domestic Violence through art. The exhibit opened on September 23rd and will remain open until November 30th, 2014.
The artwork in ¡Fuerza! is based on a short story by Robert Chambers, and includes a narrative set of 12 graphic novel-style panels by local Hispanic artists. SCCADVASA created brochures specifically for this event, which are stationed near the artwork for those that may need support and advocacy-based services.
The artwork is incredibly powerful and poignant. We would like to invite all of our community allies to support this event and the talented artists, all of whom recognize domestic violence as a serious political-social issue and used their talents to express a taboo matter through art.