'Til Death Do Us Part': Inside South Carolina's Domestic Violence Epidemic

Email a Friend
The gravesite of Detra Rainey, 39, and four of her children. They were shot to death inside their North Charleston home in 2006. Her husband was charged, but later declared mentally unstable.
From and

In South Carolina, one woman dies every 12 days from domestic violence. 

With more than 300 women shot, stabbed, strangled, beaten, or burned to death over the past decade by men, The Violence Policy Center has ranked South Carolina among the top 10 worst states for the last 15 years when it comes to domestic violence and the number of women murdered by men.

To put that statistic into perspective, more than three times as many women have died at the hands of current or former lovers in South Carolina than the number of Palmetto State soldiers killed in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars combined.

In an investigative series, four South Carolina journalists reporting for The Post and Courier spent eight months interviewing more than 100 victims, counselors, police, prosecutors, and judges, and their findings are alarming.

All 46 of South Carolina's counties have at least one animal shelter to care for stray dogs and cats, but the state has only 18 domestic violence shelters to help women trying to escape abusive homes—about 380 women were turned away from shelters between July 2012 and June 2013 due to lack of room.

The state records about 36,000 incidents of domestic abuse every year, but offenders get a maximum of 30 days in jail for the first domestic abuse conviction.

With their report, The Post and Courier aims to explain why the murder rate for women in the state is twice that of the national average, and why, despite the state’s long-standing problem with domestic violence, lawmakers have been unable to implement real reform.

Glenn Smith, special project editor at The Post and Courier and a reporter on the seven part series "Till Death Do Us Part," gives us a look at the systemic issues South Carolina faces, from ineffective laws to a culture of tolerance of domestic violence that currently leaves women trapped in a cycle of abuse.

“There is no coordinated effort, and I think that is part of the problem,” says Smith. “Here, it’s very hit or miss. Some departments do a decent job, others are very under trained.”

Smith also points to inherited notions of violence that are deeply problematic.

“Guys grow up to believe this is how you treat women," he says. "Women grow up to believe this is how you’re supposed to be treated by your man.”