Special Report part 2: The violence at home

CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCIV) - Criminal domestic violence is the primary killer of women in South Carolina, but the state lacks a comprehensive campaign to educate or help victims caught in dangerous relationships.

In a special partnership with the Post and Courier, research shows there is only very limited coordination between police, prosecutors, and the courts. Most law enforcement agencies have limited resources for handling domestic violence cases, too.

In Berkeley County, there's only one person to handle crime victims' advocacy - and her workload is growing.

In her office at the Berkeley County Sheriff's Office, Carole Grunsky pages through more than just paperwork.

"These are the arrests and bond papers from bond court," she said, pointing to a stack of paperwork.

There are also daily incident reports involving criminal domestic violence.

"In fact, Hanahan had a domestic violence, high and aggravated nature. So that was a very serious one there," she said.

For 21 years, Grunsky has seen and heard the worst of all crimes. And most of them came from relationships that turned dangerous.

Sometimes the 911 calls echo in her office.

"There's a terrible fight of some sort, a woman screaming and yelling, 'I need an officer to come here because my husband just beated me real bad,'" said one woman in a 911 recording.

Grunsky has heard dozens of these calls.

"Some days are very, very tough. Some days are where you just want to go home and cry," Grunsky said.

Grunsky says she mostly feels satisfied when she helps victims, but she admits it's tough when they don't step forward in court.

That happened last month - repeatedly.

"We probably had 25 cases and we might have had five victims to show up. It's very hard to prosecute a case without a victim," she said.

Award-winning Post and Courier journalist Doug Pardue helped investigate the special series. He found staggering statistics about the state's criminal domestic violence rate.

"More women have died in the past 10 years in South Carolina from domestic violence than have service people died from South Carolina in both the Iraq and Afghanistan wars combined," he said. "Three times as many."

But Pardue also found that fighting the battle of domestic violence has been an uphill climb.

"Virtually all the solutions can be done without very much extra money. Maybe in some cases it's just a hesitancy to act on a statewide basis," Pardue said.

But help could be on the way for some communities.

The U.S. Department of Justice is considering North Charleston for part of a grant that would train police in handling domestic violence cases.

Police spokesman Spencer Pryor said they are already working with the Medical University of South Carolina, My Sister's House, and the Office of Violence Against Women on the first phase of another grant.

But as Grunsky points out, it's tough to prosecute a case when a victim does not press charges or appear in court.

That's one of the problems with efforts to stop the cycle of domestic violence.