South Carolina is near the top of the list nationally for deaths due to domestic violence. Law enforcement officials warn that domestic conflicts often increase around the holidays when family reunions bring up old tensions, and the level of alcohol consumption may increase at the same time.
Most domestic violence victims are women. But no one knows better about domestic violence than Dave Wells. In 2007 he separated from his girlfriend, who Wells described as extremely controlling and angry. Later she returned to South Carolina from Brooklyn, New York, and shot him five times at point blank range with a .357 pistol. The woman then turned the gun on herself and took her own life. Wells was hospitalized for 40 days.
Wells says spouses or partners in relationships need to take a warning from repeated verbal attacts. “Life and death are in the power of the tongue,” said Wells. “We see it everyday. How you respond to angry people is our choice. If a person says they’re angry and they hate you, and they want to kill you, they may follow through. If you can speak it, it can happen. You can’t take it lightly. Life is too precious.”
There are 23 programs in South Carolina which offer help to victims of domestic violence or sexual assault. They’re coordinated by the Coalition Against Domestic Violence and Sexual Asault. Wells says groups like Sister Care are there to help, as well as local law enforcement.
“You can’t be afraid to talk to authorities if there’s a threat on your life,” said Wells. “Document it. And I’m not talking about everytime someone gets angry and you get into a squabble you should try to have them thrown in jail. But if someone is really threatening you, it’s serious emotion.”
Wells was honored during this fall’s Silent Witness Ceremony at the statehouse, which recognizes those killed due to domestic violence during the previous year.
Wells says everyone in an intimate relationship needs emotional control. “People cross the line in relationships because of emotions,” he said. “Because of anger, there is a thin line between love and hate. But learning how to deal with it it important, because that love can easily turn to hate.”
Wells says sometimes emotions change and people grow apart. “If a person wants to leave and doesn’t want to be with you anymore, then accept it,” he said. “You can’t make a person love you or be with you. Take those words literally, and grow from that.”
Well’s doctors say they had never seen anything like it, that it’s a miracle he survived being shot five times at point-blank range with a powerful handgun. Some of the metal is still in his body. But he wears one of the slugs around his neck as a reminder.