Domestic violence takes steep toll in Georgia, South Carolina

Published: Feb. 15, 2022 at 10:32 AM EST
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COLUMBIA, S.C. (WRDW/WAGT) - Family violence is a nationwide epidemic that carries an estimated cost in the U.S. of $3.6 trillion a year — and Georgia and South Carolina are no strangers to the problem.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one in four women and one in seven men will experience severe physical violence by an intimate partner in their lifetime.

A new study estimates that domestic violence in South Carolina cost $358.4 million in 2020.

And in Georgia, there were 254,905 reported family violence incidents and 770 known family violence-related fatalities from 2016 to 2020.

Separate reports have been released detailing the problem on each side of the Savannah River.

In South Carolina

Findings from a South Carolina report indicate 82,379 people in the Palmetto State will be victims of intimate partner violence. South Carolina ranks 11th in the nation in the rate of women murdered by men, with a rate of 1.68 per 100,000, according to the Violence Policy Center.

The new study was commissioned by the Jamie Kimble Foundation for Courage and conducted by Dr. Joseph C. Von Nessen of the Darla Moore School of Business at the University of South Carolina. The findings were presented Tuesday in a news conference at the South Carolina State House.

The study found the largest economic impacts occur in the most populated areas of the state – including Charleston, Columbia and the Upstate – because those areas have more people.

But the economist and groups behind this study also emphasize domestic violence is a statewide problem, happening everywhere – and it’s going to take a statewide effort to prevent and stop it.

“Unfortunately, our state has consistently ranked within the top 10 states for the rate of female homicide in each of the past 17 years,” Von Nessen said. “South Carolina ranks seventh among all states with respect to the percentage of females who experienced intimate partner violence at some point during their lifetimes. And about 42% of females and 29% of males in South Carolina, expected to experience intimate partner violence in their lifetimes at least one time.”

The $358.4 million figure includes both explicit costs of domestic violence as well as what Von Nessen called the “hidden cost.”

Explicit costs, he said, involve program initiatives like shelters, general support mechanisms for victim support and public awareness, health care and law enforcement costs.

But the hidden costs, which he said are impossible to completely quantify, are financial impacts most people don’t think about — things like the harm and general well-being of the victims and their families not being able to return to their normal lives, as well as worker productivity losses.”

Sara Barber of the South Carolina Coalition Against Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault, said: “We cannot continue to let this issue hide in plain sight. We have to clearly see the need, use our resources to respond to it, and recognize that the importance of this work ripples through every part of our families, our society, and the economic wellbeing of our state.”

Von Nessen called for better measures to prevent domestic violence.

“This is truly a statewide issue that we have to have to address and to take seriously,” he said.

Lt. Gov. Pamela Evette said the impact goes far beyond a monetary cost.

“This is an issue that we can all come together on,” Evette said. “It’s not a Democrat or Republican issue. It’s not a rich or poor issue. This issue can touch anybody, any family, anywhere in our state.”

Evette said Gov, Henry McMaster asked for $600,000 to go to domestic violence programs.

She urged people to talk with each other about the issue and have “hard conversations.”

“Let’s make South Carolina the state that really starts the change,” she said.

State lawmakers say having this type of data for the first time ever is groundbreaking – and will help them make policy changes to reflect it.

Rep. Kambrell Garvin, D-Richland, said: “To break the cycle of violence, we must pursue efforts that prevent violence from entering our homes and our communities. It is imperative that we finally prioritize prevention education in every school in South Carolina, to teach students about the cycle of violence, healthy relationships, and the impact that it has on the prevalence of violence within our community.”

State Rep. Gilda Cobb-Hunter, D-Orangeburg, who has worked for a social work administrator, said the reason the data is important is because of “a changing society.”

“When we first started doing this work, you used to be able to kind of tug on people’s heartstrings and get them to really care. Those days are gone,” she said. “If you want success, you’ve got to be able to have evidence. You can’t rely on the heart, pulling on the heartstrings.”

In Georgia

The Georgia Commission on Family Violence outlined some aspects of the problem in a newly released report, “Male Involvement in Family Violence Incidents.”

“Family violence is about power and control,” the report states. “An abusive partner or family member maintains control over their victim(s) through many types of abuse such as physical, psychological, and/or economic. The goal is to gain and maintain dominance over another person using various tactics to carry out the abuse.”

To report abuse, victims must overcome the tactics of control being used on them, the report says.

The commission says some victims face additional barriers to reporting the problem or seeking help. Examples include individuals in the LGBTQ community, immigrant communities and male victims, who can face disbelief that they’re being abused.

Commission Director April Ross comments, “Our agency is focused on widening the lens and creating a more inclusive approach to family violence.”

The Georgia Commission on Family Violence is a state agency created by the Georgia General Assembly in 1992 to develop a comprehensive state plan for ending family violence in Georgia.

For confidential resources and support, call 800-33-HAVEN, the 24-hour statewide domestic violence hotline.


From reports by WRDW/WAGT, WCSC and WIS