CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCBD)- October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month and domestic violence is a large problem in South Carolina. The state ranks 5th worst in the nation for domestic violence, and not just this year. The Palmetto State has placed in the top 10 worst states every year for the past 20 years.
Executive Director of My Sister’s House, Tosha Connors, says,”We know that generally we will see 350-450 women and children in our shelter during the year, and we will receive upward of 3,000 calls on our crisis line”.
That’s just calls within the tri-county area. She says one of the big problems in South Carolina is a culture where no one wants to talk about domestic violence.
Connors says,”It can be taboo to talk about. I think in the state in general it’s, this is my property, my house, my life, my wife, you don’t tell me what to do and we don’t have to explain what’s happening here.”
Many people deny domestic violence is even happening in their community.
Connors says, “It doesn’t matter your race, your socioeconomic status, your religion, your sexuality, it’s about power and control and those other factors don’t matter. It happens everywhere. It happens in North Charleston, Mount Pleasant, James Island, on the Peninsula. That’s very dangerous to think, that’s not happening among my friends. We’re more educated than that, we’re smarter than that, we have more money. Those women can be in abusive relationships as well.”
She says the key is education, making domestic violence a more common conversation so women know they aren’t alone and educating children about healthy relationships.
Connors says, “If they are in abusive situations or see that their parents are in abusive situations that will color the way they look at the world.”
There are four types of domestic abuse. Physical: causes bodily harm. Financial: the abuser keeps complete control of the money, not giving the victim any financial independence. Psychological: the abuser breaks down the victim’s self-esteem, often by using very demeaning names. Emotional: the abuser will instill fear by taking away something the victim loves, like tearing up precious photos or killing a pet.
Tosha Connors says. “It’s not because you’re on drugs, it’s not alcoholism. Those can be contributing factors, but that’s not the reason why somebody is abusive. I think we’ve all been drunk and we don’t go beating people up. It’s about power and control.”
Without obvious physical injuries, it can be hard to tell if someone is in a domestic violence situation.
Connors says, “Sometimes people will say, I don’t know anyone in a domestic violence situation. I guarantee that you do or you have known somebody who’s been in a domestic violence situation. They just haven’t revealed it to you for whatever reason.”
But there are some signs one of your friends is dealing with domestic abuse. She may start avoiding things that she loves.
Connors says, “Slowly but surely, that one person isn’t showing up because my boyfriend doesn’t like it or my husband doesn’t like it, when you see her retreating from things she would normally do, going to exercise classes, church is a big one.”
The abuser will try to distance her from friends and family.
Connors says, “This abusive person is going to try to turn you against them. So, ‘they don’t really care about you’, ‘they’re jealous of you’. They’re going to say every negative thing they can to distance you from the people that you love.”
The abuser may text her constantly, keeping tabs at all times.
Connors says, “Every five minutes there’s a ping on that phone or they have to respond or they get very jittery or nervous.”
The best way to help a victim of domestic violence is by letting them know they are not alone, and have the support of family and friends.
Tosha Connors says, “If your life has been threatened, do you think you are just going to up and walk out? Especially if you don’t have a support system, if you don’t have family and friends that you can really rely on? Sometimes you’re afraid of putting them in danger as well so you don’t want to go to those people.”
In fact, on average it takes a victim five to seven attempts to leave an abusive relationship before they are successful.
Connors says, “It can be very challenging for a woman and there are a lot of reasons why she may not leave. In some cases she may genuinely love this person, she just wants him to stop hurting her.”
The first thing you can do is believe her when she has the courage to confide in you.
Connors says, “Listen to them, let them know that you’re there for them, believe them. Do not just start going, ‘well I would do this’, ‘if my husband were doing that I would just get up and leave’, because you don’t know what that person is going through, but saying ‘let me help you find some resources’, ‘is there somebody that you want to talk to’, asking that person what they want to do and letting them know you are there for them.”
You can also offer to hold a “get-away bag” at your house in case she needs to escape her home and develop a safety plan.
Connors says, “That’s really just brainstorming different scenarios. So if this happens, which room do I go to? Knowing to stay away from the bathroom because usually there’s not an exit there.Staying out of the kitchen, there are knives and other sharp objects. Is there a friend’s house nearby that you can go to? But if they’re not ready to leave you can’t make that decision for them, as hard as it is.”
Often, people refer to women as the victims of domestic violence, but the leaders at My Sister’s House say men can also be victims of domestic violence and they have resources for men too. If you are in a domestic violence situation and need help immediately, the My Sister’s House 24 Hour Hotline number is 1-800-273-4673.