SC legislation would increase penalties for domestic violence

A bill that would put stricter penalties on first-time domestic violence offenders in South Carolina is making its way through the state's General Assembly.

State Representative Bakari Sellers, D-Bamberg, sponsored the bill.

"The goal of the bill is to make sure it (domestic violence) doesn't happen again," Sellers said.

The proposed bill would require an offender spend up to 180 in jail, instead of the 30 days under the existing law.

A 26-week counseling program and turning over firearms is also required.

"I felt pretty excited, pretty excited that something was being done," said New Directions Executive Director Kathy Jenkins after finding out about the legislation.

New Directions is an agency that works with area homeless and domestic violence shelters.

She told WPDE NewsChannel 15 that extending the jail time for offenders would be helpful, because 30 days isn't enough time to protect women in our area who use the shelters.

"Our shelter provides a safe haven for thirty days, so the timing is really bad for someone to get back on their feet and knowing that their abuser is also just getting out of jail," Jenkins said.

However, Sellers said legislation can only help so much with a problem that is deeply rooted in our society and our state. South Carolina has ranked number one when it comes to the number of women killed by men.

"We have to change culture. We have to change behavior, and I can't do that through legislation," Sellers said.

The bill did not make it out of the House subcommittee last week.

Seller said it will be taken back up again on Thursday and expects a vote.