SC House Speaker Bobby Harrell announced Wednesday he has created a special ad hoc committee that will be tasked with finding ways to end South Carolina’s status as the nation’s highest rate for women murdered by men.
The Special Criminal Domestic Violence Ad Hoc Committee had its first organizational meeting Wednesday afternoon.
Harrell named the ad hoc domestic violence committee after the Charleston Post & Courier ran a series of articles detailing serious legal and cultural problems that cause the rate of women killed by men in South Carolina to be nearly double the national rate.
The articles noted that 14 pieces of legislation have been proposed in the Statehouse concerning domestic violence in the last two years. But only one of those measures passed– dealing with custody of pets that may be caught up in the situation.
Committee chair State Rep. Shannon Erickson, R-Beaufort, said the panel will hear from experts, stakeholders, and the public to see if criminal laws could be toughened or the law enforcement and legal system improved to help reduce the violence. Erickson said she hoped the committee would be able to recommend comprehensive reform, not piecemeal changes.
“Our goal is not to put a Band-Aid on this,” she told South Carolina Radio Network. “But to take a hard look at it, a real look at it. And make real change.”
State Rep. Gilda Cobb-Hunter, D-Orangeburg, was skeptical of the committee’s purpose. Cobb-Hunter, a social worker in her private life, says she served on a domestic violence task force that made recommendations back in 2009 and sees a new study committee as unnecessary.
She said lawmakers have ignored the issue too long. “I am just very pleased that the articles in the Post & Courier have elicited, apparently, some response from members of the General Assembly,” she said. “Hopefully, this will result in us doing something.”
Harrell has asked the committee to come up with its recommendations before the new session starts in January.