"The issues that impact the health and wellbeing of the citizens of South Carolina re not partisan," said Representative Jenny Horne speaking to a captivated group of advocates and community membersin North Charleston. "If you wanto make achange then you need to get in your car, drive to Columbia, and share your passion."
There were many moments of inspiration at the "Addressing Domestic Violence and Other Women's Issues at the SC Statehouse" meeting in North Charleston on Wednesday evening. Graciously hosted by the League of Women Voters, the event brought together community members and advocates to hear from both Representative Jenny Horne and reporter Doug Pardue of the Post & Courier. It was Doug's 7-part series called Till Death Do Us Part that has brought South Carolina's domestic violence problem to the forefront, and, as Representative Horne said, has "shamed the legislature into acting."
While the realities of domestic violence were a focus of the assembled group, I found myself inspired by the passion and drive that advocates in the room possessed. They told personal stories and spoke from their individual perspectives, each highlighting the same point: domestic violence is an issue that has plagued South Carolina for far too long and needs a variety of solutions to enact true change.
I had several favorite moments from the meeting, but none were more powerful than Doug Pardue's comment that "our state needs to stop calling domestic violence a 'marital difficulty' and start calling it what it is: a crime." To me, this hit at the heart of what we've been facing: a misunderstanding and acceptance of the violence, coupled with a "sweep it under the rug" mentality - something we've seen a lot of in the reproductive health field. We need to recognize violence as the crime it is, and treat everything, from collecting evidence and interviewing witnesses, to streamlining punishment and rehabilitation facilities, with importance and a sense of the full process of ending this horrific practice.
As Doug Pardue said, "South Carolina is made up of islands of excellence in a sea of failure." Based on the passion and dedication at this meeting, there are thousands of islands in this state, all who want to bring positive change and prevent as many actsof domestic violence as possile. We need to pull our islands together and conquer this failure. The women of South Carolina demand it.