My Sister’s House celebrates 40 years in the Lowcountry, addresses domestic violence amid pandemic

Local News

NORTH CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCBD) – It has been 40 years since My Sister’s House, a domestic violence organization and emergency shelter, opened in the Lowcountry. Since the founding group of women identified the need for domestic violence victims in the area, My Sister’s House said they have evolved to be more than a shelter. 

The CEO, Tosha Connors, said they have added court advocacy programs, community outreach, clinical programs, and most recently, over the last 19-20 months with COVID, they have had to learn to be agile to meet a different set of needs that their victims are facing. 

In 2020, the Femicide rate (the rate at which women are killed at the hands of significant others) in South Carolina was number one, and in 2021, the state jumped back to number six. 

Connors said that at the beginning of the lockdown those kept at home with their abusers were unable to get help.  While other states were reporting spikes in cases, Connors said South Carolina was not. Once they did have clients reaching out, they heard that fear was being used.  

A common tactic by abusers, that was played up by the novelty of the Coronavirus. 

A lot of abusers would say if you don’t do what I want, I will kick you out of the house, you will get COVID and die. 

Tosha Connors, CEO My Sister’s House 

Unable to get out into the community to reach clients due to the pandemic, the team at My Sister’s House had to rethink their approach.

Connors said with an influx of individuals utilizing takeout, they created flyers that were handed out to restaurants so they would be added to the meals. The flyer would read, “you’re not alone”, and included the number to their crisis hotline.  

Their new administrative office at 3775 Spruill Avenue in North Charleston, opened just ahead of 2020, has become a place where many have found hope.

Connors said, “We really want to be that first step and we want to help them from getting from victim to survival hood and that can’t happen if you are living in the shadows.” 

The administrative office offers a space for individual therapy, support groups, and case management. Ultimately, it serves the 1 in 3 women in the Lowcountry affected by domestic violence but not yet in need of an emergency shelter.

It is really hard to admit that you are in a situation that is unhealthy, or maybe that is not what love is supposed to look like, it’s not supposed to hurt, it is not supposed to feel this way. There is a really strong myth out there that it is only poor minority women who are being abused right? As if they are asking for it, or they don’t have any other recourse. We see these things happen from  Sullivan’s Island, Isle of Palms, North Charleston, Goose Creek. 

Tosha Connors, CEO My Sister’s House 

After four decades and preparing for more, My Sister’s House remains a safe place for those in need, no matter how an individual identifies.

They said while they are excited to celebrate their 40th anniversary, it is also heartbreaking that they have had to be in the community for so long. 

Connors said with the femicide rate going up, lawmakers and community leaders need to take a hard look at the budget and what can be done to prevent more abuse and death. 

Connors explained that domestic violence is a public health crisis in our state and in the U.S. and that being able to teach kids from an early age what healthy relationships look like could assist in prevention. She said having a curriculum that is statewide that all the elementary school kids are getting at the same time would also help.

As for the state’s budget, she believes there is a lot of room for growth and for domestic violence agencies in South Carolina to receive a “minimal amount”.

If intimate partner violence were easy to solve, Connors said they would have solved it already. However there is “not just one thing, a silver bullet, and then boom it is going to go away.” The issue is multi-faceted. What she says can help, is strong legislation to support areas of transportation, child care, and housing, which are major barriers to clients leaving their situation.

Connors said she would like to acknowledge the strength of those who have sought help or are looking to. “It is really hard to admit that you are in a situation that is unhealthy, or maybe that is not what love is supposed to look like, it’s not supposed to hurt, it is not supposed to feel this way.”

For My Sister’s House Crisis Line, call 1-800-273-4673

For more information on My Sister’s House or a Safety Plan, click here.

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