39 South Carolinians killed at the hands of their partners in 2021

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CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCBD) – The Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC) is honoring the lives lost to Intimate Partner Violence across the state through 39 articles of clothing and victims’ stories hung up across their campus.

Abby Steere-Williams, the Advocacy Program Coordinator at MUSC, and Karen Hughes a Forensic Nurse at MUSC began the display of clothing 6 years ago. They said the dresses and shirts displayed were to honor the lives lost over the past year and to raise awareness about the resources available in our community. 

Of the 39 individuals that were killed this year at the hands of their partners, 15 of them were men. Hughes said that’s the highest number of men that have been recorded in the past 20 years for the state. Even more, 2021 is also the first year that the state recognized same-sex-coupled victims. 

Whether it be emotional abuse, controlling behaviors, jealousy, financial abuse, or physical abuse, newer research indicates 1 in 3 women will be affected at one point in their lifetime.

Steere-Williams said on the social work side, they see between 25 and 35 victims of Intimate Partner Violence per month. While some laws have changed to help victims, South Carolina remains in the top 10 worst states for lives lost each year per capita, and advocates say COVID-19 has increased the need for awareness. 

There’s a lot more people having to stay home and in unfortunately, dangerous home situations. 

Abby Steere-Williams, MUSC Advocacy Program Coordinator 

But it’s not just the pandemic that causes the state to rank 6th in the nation. Hughes said it’s also due to gun violence and their availability. As gunshot wounds are the number one way she said that their victims have been killed.

Additionally, South Carolina is also a largely rural state and in rural areas, the risk of partner violence goes up. 

Those with MUSC note that Intimate Partner Violence can happen to anyone and the two key elements to look out for are controlling and jealous behaviors that can be accompanied by a cycle. Steere-Williams described the cycles as, “things will kind of get worse and worse and explode and then will be very apologetic, I’m so sorry, I love you, it will never happen again and it keeps cycling through.”

Hughes said many people do not usually disclose until they have been abused about 12 times. She said, “after that 12 times, they are not necessarily disclosing to medical or law enforcement, they are going to disclose to somebody that they trust such as their mother, sister, best friend.”  

Aside from being in an Intimate Partner Violence situation, Hughes said one most dangerous times for someone experiencing violence is 6 months after they leave their abusive partner, so it is best to have a plan together and seek community resources such as MUSC.

For more on MUSC’s partner, My Sister’s House, click here.

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