Harrell appoints 10-member panel to improve SC domestic violence laws

COLUMBIA, S.C. (WCIV) - On the heels of a massive, months-long investigation by the Post and Courier and ABC News 4 on the state's weak domestic violence laws, lawmakers are swinging into action.

Citing a statistic found during research that more than 300 women were killed by domestic abuse in the last 10 years, Speaker of the House Bobby Harrell formed a special ad hoc committee to work on improving the state's domestic violence laws.

"There is more that we can do as a state to better protect our citizens and help prevent this type of abuse. It's time to make South Carolina's Criminal Domestic Violence laws better," he said.

Harrell says the committee has been tasked with finding ways to raise public awareness and find out what other states have done to protect women from these deadly relationships.

"Our goal with this Special Committee is that, by the time session begins in January, the House will have a legislative framework ready to be introduced the first day we come back," Harrell said. "Raising awareness and preventing domestic violence in South Carolina will be a priority for the House this coming year. Our state has several vital areas we need to improve upon and that is why it is important this Committee begin its work now."

Rep. Shannon Erickson will chair the 10-member committee made up of Reps. Gilda Cobb-Hunter, MaryGail Douglas, Ralph Kennedy, Deborah Long, Peter McCoy Jr., Robert Ridgeway III, Eddie Tallon, Sr., Anne Thayer, and David Weeks.

Erickson said the group will meet for the first time Wednesday after the House adjourns its session.

"In addition to seeking out better ways to strengthen our state's CDV laws, I hope this Committee will raise awareness of the horrible impact domestic violence inflicts on our neighbors, co-workers and friends," Erickson stated. "Domestic abuse is a serious crime, and it's time for our state to start treating it that way. Speaker Harrell has put together a committed group of diverse, hardworking Lawmakers who plan on holding batterers accountable, supporting victims' rights and breaking the cycle of abuse."

South Carolina consistently reports high rates of domestic violence incidents.

The latest report by the Violence Policy Center ranks South Carolina first in the country in the rate of women killed by men.

The Legislature failed to pass several proposals this year aimed at stemming abuse.