COLUMBIA, SC (WLTX)- A study released Tuesday says South Carolina has the most women killed by men in the country, raising major questions about domestic violence in our state.
"What I really want people to understand is a domestic violence victim, it may be that person on the other side of town but it could also be your sister, your best friend, it could be your priest, it could be your lawyer or your child's teacher," said Sara Barber, executive director of the SC coalition against domestic violence.
Barber says she's disappointed, but not surprised by the results, published by the Violence Policy Center. South Carolina has ranked in the top 10 since the survey began reporting data in 1996.
The most recent data is from 2013, and shows 57 women were killed by men, 2.32 women per 100,000.
"Our rate is double the national rate and while nation wide the trend has been sharply downward, we have just been stuck with this very high rate," Barber said. "It's not just number 32 who is from Richland county. This is Mary, who had four kids, and now they have no mother."
Governor Nikki Haley recently released 50 recommendations on how to help reduce domestic violence in our state.
One of her biggest concerns: police officers with no legal experience often have to prosecute domestic violence cases.
"We have police officers prosecuting domestic violence cases and although those officers are trying to do the best job they can, they often are up against a defense attorney who has many years of experience and is trained to do that work," Barber said. "And they really don't stand much of a chance against that."
The Lexington County Sheriff's Department was the first in the state to hire a prosecutor specifically to deal with domestic violence cases so officers don't have to alone.
"A road officer prosecuting a case, they don't have the training, they also don't have the luxury of specializing in just domestic violence cases," said Nicole Howland, who has held the position since 1999.
"Domestic violence, even if it doesn't rise to the level of homicide, has a profound and long lasting impact on everyone, all South Carolinans," Howland said. "You're talking about people who are living in a terroristic environment in their own home."
Governor Haley also wants 911 operators trained on how to deal with domestic violence calls, and wants to open more shelters.
Some of the recommendations will take time, but advocates hope we're on the right path.
"Nobody should live like that. Nobody should be afraid to go home. No child should be scared to go to sleep. Domestic violence is the one crime I believe touches every single person in this country."