MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WMBF) - Police respond to domestic violence calls daily and South Carolina's top prosecutor is pushing for tougher penalties against abusers.
Law enforcement officials and domestic violence experts are shedding light on how Criminal Domestic Violence Bill 3 will impact South Carolina and they're distinguishing the different levels of the crime. Tougher penalties against domestic violence abusers could soon become a reality if the proposed bill gets passed. One of the bigger changes includes tougher gun regulations for anyone charged with criminal domestic violence. Officers say no matter what happens, they'll enforce the law.
"Currently what we don't have is we don't have tiers in the current statute," says Lt. Joey Crosby with the Myrtle Beach Police Department. "What we have is a CDV or a CDV high and aggravated nature. CDV standing for criminal domestic violence." What sets the two levels apart is anything that takes the violence beyond battery – so, the use of a weapon, force, or intimidation.
The proposed domestic violence bill includes a provision that would take guns away from anyone convicted of a domestic violence charge for a decade after their sentence is served. Federal law already includes the ban, but South Carolina doesn't have its own law to actually enforce it. The bill also would take away the gun rights of anyone who has had a protective order in a domestic violence case against them. Besides the gun provisions, the bill restructures criminal domestic violence laws into a tiered system of degrees. So it's based on the severity of the crime, with escalating penalties ranging from 30 days in jail to 10 years in prison.
"We do take these matters very seriously because they are a serious-nature call. We do respond and we do take the incident reports for the calls with the facts that were given at hand. And then we provide those resources to the victims and to the families, because once we leave after documenting the incident then the families have to be put back together again," says Lt. Crosby.
Some lawmakers have voiced concerns the new gun provision takes away a person's Second Amendment rights. That is expected to be part of the debate as the bill is to be considered by the state Senate this week.
South Carolina ranks second in the nation for reports of deadly domestic violence. From the most recent statistic from the Violence Policy Center (https://www.vpc.org/press/1409wmmw.htm?), two in every 100,000 women are killed due to criminal domestic violence in our state.
"The laws are not conducive to a woman's safety or to her pressing charges. Because to a female, pressing charges is just making him madder," says Kathy Jenkins, the executive director of New Directions of Horry County.
Jenkins runs the LifeLine Domestic Violence Shelter. Jenkins and her team help local women and their children get out of abusive and violent situations. And an important part of making sure they continue to stay safe is for the woman to feel confident enough to press charges She says this is very difficult when they don't feel the laws protect them enough. So she believes stiffer penalties would help. But in Jenkins' mind, guns shouldn't be the only thing lawmakers are focused on.
"Abusers are not allowed to have knives! There are all kinds of weapons and all kinds of things that just natural things that they find in their possession that can be used as weapons. But what we're faced with here in South Carolina is the number of women who are actually being killed by guns," says Jenkins.
Jenkins says one of the more exciting things about the bill for her is that it also focuses on educating students about criminal domestic violence. She says this kind of education will help kids be more aware and take control of their relationships at school and at home.
There are resources available to you if you or a loved one needs to get out of a violent situation. You can call the LifeLine Domestic Violence Shelter at 843-232-7055 or the National Domestic Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE.