City to hold domestic violence vigil: ‘Help is out there’
Goose Creek Police Department Victim Advocate Levolia Rhodes is gearing up for the city’s first National Domestic Violence Month vigil featuring speakers who have been victims.
Joint Base Charleston Family Advocacy has partnered with the city and the Goose Creek Police Department for the Oct. 10 event at 7 p.m. at the Goose Creek Municipal Complex at 519 N. Goose Creek Blvd.
Domestic violence has become an epidemic over the last few years, according to Rhodes.
“It’s bad,” she said. “There are a lot of programs and activities to bring awareness to the seriousness of domestic violence.”
South Carolina is No. 2 in the nation for the number of women killed at the hands of male intimate partners. More than 36,000 domestic violence cases are reported statewide each year.
According to S.C. Attorney General’s office statistics, in 2010 there were 34 females killed and 10 males killed in domestic violence incidents. In 2011 there were a total of 52 fatal cases across the state – 39 women and 13 men.
The 2012 statistics are expected to be released the first week of October. Over the past 13 years an average of 33 women have been killed each year by their intimate partner.
“It seems to keep going up,” Rhodes said. “I can only be hopeful that the (2012) number is lower.”
Last year there was one incident in Goose Creek where a man stabbed his wife to death.
“Domestic violence,” Rhodes said, “is very complex to deal with. You’re dealing with relationships, families, couples. It crosses all lines – socio-economic, race.”
There are a variety of causes. An abuser is usually a controlling person who feels the need to control and dominate somebody else.
“They make a lot of victims feel like it’s something they did,” Rhodes said. “They start to believe it. It makes it even harder.”
According to Rhodes, abusers tend to say things like, “Look what you made me do.”
When this happens there is emotional, physical and even sexual abuse, Rhodes said.
Physical abuse is hitting, slapping, kicking, burning and choking. It often results in black eyes and bumps. Physical abuse is the easiest to detect and prosecute.
“If you show pictures to a judge it’s a more compelling story,” Rhodes said.
Another form of abuse is when partners are forced to participate in sexual acts in which they have no choice, according to Rhodes. Some victims have been in relationships or marriages for five, 10 or 15 years, Rhodes said.
A controlling person can cut off a spouse from friends, family, their social life and even their job. In some cases an abuser tells their spouse to quit a job so they can “take care of them,” which results in financial control, Rhodes said.
Financial dependence makes it more difficult for a victim to leave an abusive situation because they likely would have no place to live, Rhodes said. “Many victims feel like they are caught in a web.”
Abusers will also tell victims things like, “Nobody wants you.”
Many victims of domestic violence may not even know they are being abused.
Verbal and emotional abuse consists of put-downs, insults, attacks on self-esteem, threats of violence, suicide, custody fights, deportation, isolating victims from family and friends and controlling their food, sleep and social life.
Financial abuse and property destruction includes destroying items that have value to the victim, taking the victim’s paycheck, forcing them to quit a job and using financial threats to keep the victim in the relationship.
“Help is out there,” Rhodes said. “We have to get the message out.”
Organizations like My Sister’s House, an emergency shelter for domestic violence victims and their children, are available for Berkeley, Dorchester and Charleston county residents. Counselors can be reached 24/7 at (843) 744-3242.
The S.C. Victim Assistance Network (SCVAN) provides victims with emergency needs such as medicine, food, glasses if they get broken, dentures, new locks, lodging, transportation and crime scene cleanup.
Liza’s Lifeline is an organization that can buy a victim a bus ticket back home to another state to get them out of harm’s way.
There is also the S.C. State Office of Victim Assistance (SOVA), which offers compensation and assistance for crime victims with expenses resulting directly from a crime that are not covered by other payment sources.
This includes coverage of some medical bills, counseling, burial bills for a deceased victim and lost wages. SOVA is not supported by tax dollars. It takes money from persons convicted of criminal offenses and puts it in a special account for crime victims.
A support group meets each week at GCPD at 6 p.m. Support groups welcome women who understand what victims are experiencing. Victims gain strength from others who have overcome abusive relationships.
Rhodes said the Department of Social Services sent one woman to their support group who was initially reluctant.
“The light bulb went off (for her),” Rhodes said. “She wanted to stop it. She saw her grandfather do it to her grandmother. Her father did it to her mother, then it was happening to her.”