CW 21 Town Hall tackles domestic violence

On Friday night, a town hall meeting on the topic of domestic violence was hosted by Armstrong Williams and a panel of state and local experts, including Horry County Police Chief Saundra Rhodes and State Attorney General Alan Wilson.

Every year more than 36,000 victims report domestic violence in South Carolina, and the state attorney general's office says more than 30 people are killed by an intimate partner in the state every year.

The big question addressed was - how do we stop the violence?

For Forestbrook resident Helen Bowden, the topic brings back some terrible memories of her cousin who was a victim.

"He got up, fed his 12-year-old daughter her breakfast downstairs, he went upstairs to the bedroom, got the shotgun, shot her 5 times in the chest. Killed her instantly," Bowden said.

Helen's cousin's husband killed his wife with no warning. In fact, the family loved him.

"He was a friendly guy. Liked to sing, had a beautiful voice. He was a mental health counselor," Bowden said.

Other stories similar to Bowden's were shared with local and state leaders who are trying to lower the number of domestic violence crimes within South Carolina.

Horry County Police Chief Saundra Rhodes said hearing these personal stories helps shed light on the issue.

"I think it gives hope for other victims to know that they're not alone and that there are other people who've gone through it and have come through it. I think it's important for them to see that," Chief Rhodes said.

One of the questions from the public was why does South Carolina rank so high in domestic violence incidents?

Chief Rhodes said culture plays a part, but so does state process.

"We report people who had formally cohabitated together. We report people who have children together. And a lot of states don't report those things and so they see criminal domestic violence as different. That doesn't change the fact that we are extremely high in our rate of domestic violence and deaths that result from criminal domestic violence, but I believe that there are some other factors involved," Chief Rhodes said.

After hearing the comments and stories at the town hall, Chief Rhodes says education on domestic violence is going to be the major goal for her officers locally.

"We want to educate our police officers so that they can assist these victims outside of just writing a report and going to a judge and getting the person arrested. We really want to be able to make them aware of which resources are available and that they're not alone," Chief Rhodes said.

For more information on domestic abuse or to get help, click these links for Myrtle Beach Haven, a list of shelters in Georgetown County, and the Pee Dee Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Assault.