Gov. Nikki Haley issued an executive order Thursday that creates another task force to investigate ways of reducing domestic violence in South Carolina.
The governor said more than 40 state agencies, nonprofits, and other groups will be part of the task force. The groups include law enforcement, criminal justice, substance abuse and mental illness treatment organizations, victim’s aid organizations, and education and medial groups.
“I knew this wasn’t going to be a quick fix, but it’s okay,” Haley said in a press conference introducing the task force on Thursday. “I don’t mind if this is going to take us longer. I don’t mind if this is going to be hard.”
The task force will have until December 31 to issue a final report. Meanwhile, legislators in the House and Senate are working on crafting their own bills that address domestic violence. South Carolina consistently has one of the nation’s highest rates of women killed by men.
Similar groups are also working in the state House and Senate. The South Carolina Attorney General’s Office has also publicly lobbied for tougher prosecution laws that would target batterers. Haley said she wanted her task force, which she will also chair, to focus on the community-level issues.
State Rep. Shannon Erickson, R-Beaufort, said she was not worried about the new coalition duplicating work already done. “I’m very pleased that she is focusing on the ground level, and doing it on a large scale,” Erickson told South Carolina Radio Network. “There’s lots to learn on this issue. It’s multi-faceted.”
The Senate Judiciary Committee has advanced a bill that would crack down on abusers. However, it is being slowed by some lawmakers concerns about language that would bar even low-level offenders from owning a gun for ten years. Senate leaders hope to take the measure up on the floor next month. A House ad hoc committee came up with its own proposal that is expected to make its way through the committee process around the same time.
Haley said this new task force will focus largely on the cultural issues that allow domestic violence to pass down from generation to generation. “Nobody talks about it. They whisper it,” she said. “They whisper it to their friends, they whisper it to their neighbors. They whisper the fact that they think that person might be abused, but they never talk about it. That’s what we’re going to change in South Carolina.”
South Carolina Coalition Against Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault director Sara Barber says it’s good to have a range of different groups looking at the problem. She said having the different coalitions working together now likely means they will work together again in the future.
“In the past, we’ve looked at it through legislation,” Barber said. “But if people don’t know how to implement that legislation, it doesn’t matter how good the laws are. They’re not going to make a difference.”