by Rebecca Callaham, Executive Director, Safe Harbor
From the Greenville News – August 8, 2010
Jessica Anderson. Natasha Kerns. Christine Crane: Three women who lost their lives this summer in Greenville County. Not to an illness, cancer or a horrible accident. Each one lost her life because the man who was supposed to love her allegedly took it from her. Each one silenced forever by domestic violence.
In South Carolina, where we promote family values and Southern hospitality, we are literally loving each other to death. South Carolina ranked No. 8 last year for the number of women killed by men. The previous year, South Carolina ranked No. 2. This is hardly an improvement, as South Carolina has consistently ranked in the Top 10.
According to the S.C. Department of Public Safety, Greenville County ranks No. 1 in the state for family violence victimization, No. 2 for domestic violence victimization, No. 2 for domestic violence aggravated assault and No. 2 for domestic violence simple assault.
Statistics show that 1 in 4 women will experience domestic violence in her lifetime. A recent study found that 30 percent of Americans know of someone who has been physically abused by their partner in the past year. And 57 percent of teenagers know someone who has been verbally, sexually or physically abused in a dating relationship.
Children are present in 68 percent of homes where police intervene in domestic violence calls. Each year, more than 10 million children witness domestic violence. Children who grow up in abusive homes are at higher risk of juvenile delinquency, drug use and to be victims or perpetrators of domestic violence.
In 2009, Safe Harbor sheltered 578 women and children who courageously fled their homes for safety. We provided counseling and support to almost 1,000 non-shelter victims — men and women. We answered close to 1,500 hotline calls. Yet, these numbers represent only a fraction of the victims of domestic violence in our community.
The FBI reports domestic violence as the leading cause of injury to women. However, it is the least reported crime. Less than one-third of victims actually report their victimization. Many of them suffer in silence. And unfortunately, many of them have been crying out — maybe we haven’t heard them, haven’t understood them, or just haven’t known how to help.
At Safe Harbor, we are committed to providing comprehensive services for victims of domestic violence. Safe Harbor is most known in this community for our crisis intervention services. Although we’ve been called the best kept secret in the Upstate, our services for Greenville, Pickens, Anderson and Oconee Counties are no secret.
We provide a 24-hour crisis line and can provide emergency shelter for up to 54 women and children between our two shelters in Greenville and Anderson. We provide a safe home, which means that we offer a confidential location and specialized services for victims of domestic violence — services such as safety planning, counseling, court advocacy, group support, transitional housing and a safe place to start a new life.
Our crisis intervention services pull victims out of the murky water of abuse and help breathe new life into them, providing them the tools to live a life free from abuse. At our shelters, we provide children’s counseling so that the smallest victims can learn to understand the abuse and learn to stop the cycle.
Safe Harbor’s prevention program is the leader in the state for dating violence programming. Our Megan Project is an interactive dating violence curriculum that helps high school students learn the difference between love and control. Our educator speaks to about 7,000 students a year, giving them the tools to understand what to do before the physical abuse occurs, as well as what to do if abuse occurs.
Additionally, Safe Harbor provides community counseling and legal advocacy services for victims who do not need or want shelter. Domestic violence takes away a victim’s sense of order, sense of safety, and sense of self in their world. Our community services help victims find their voice and begin to rebuild their lives with safety and dignity.
Services for victims are only a part of the solution. You can help us heal the embarrassing and painful blemish of domestic violence in our community.
Please join me in giving domestic violence a voice. Speak out against domestic violence, advocate for stringent domestic violence laws, hold domestic violence abusers accountable, speak up for victims, support domestic violence programs and speak against attitudes that support domestic violence.
And if you, or someone you know is being abused, don’t be silent. Call Safe Harbor’s crisis line at (864)467-3636 or at 1-800-291-2139. We can help.