According to the most recent figures from the Violence Policy Institute, South Carolina has the nation’s second-highest rate of women killed by men. To mark the start of Domestic Violence Awareness Month, the Orangeburg County Sheriff’s Office (OCSO) held a special press conference calling attention to the high rate of abuse in South Carolina.
Orangeburg County Sheriff Leroy Ravenell said it is a very difficult crime for law enforcement to prevent. “Domestic violence is not something that the sheriff can get up at three o’clock in in the morning and say, “I know that somebody’s going to attack their wife or significant other,'” he said Monday, “It’s a problem… I think, in some way, we all have been victimized by domestic violence.”
Ravenell said that his office responded to nearly 2,500 domestic disputes and over 280 criminal domestic violence calls in 2011— easily the number one call for his deputies. So far this year, 5 of the 13 homicides in Orangeburg County were domestic related, he said. In each case, a man is accused of killing a sister or girlfriend.
Heather Thomas also spoke at the conference. Thomas, a former victim herself, said she was in an abusive relationship for nearly two years. That relationship ended in January 2009 when her former boyfriend broke into her home and threatened to kill her before turning the gun on himself.
Thomas said she decided to “break her silence” Monday. “Determined not to allow this tragic sequence of events ruin my life, I resolved to find the positives among an avalanche of negatives,” she told reporters.
Thomas said she believes the best way to fight domestic violence is to educate the public about warning signs. For her own part, she said she has sought out other recovering victims since the attack on her own life. “I quickly realized that it was by God’s grace and will that I was alive. I knew that He had bigger plans.”
That sentiment was echoed by Chandra McPherson, the director of OCSO’s Victims’ Services Unit. “It is our endeavor this month… to make sure that our community is aware of the tragic end that comes as a result of domestic violence,” she said Monday.