ORANGEBURG COUNTY, SC (WIS) - In South Carolina, criminal domestic violence is a big issue. The state ranks second in the nation for women who die from their abuser.
Orangeburg County Sheriff Leroy Ravenell says he wants to bring awareness to the issue after recently battling a string of deadly domestic disputes.
"I'm breaking my silence today," said Heather Thomas, a woman who knows what it's like to be a victim.
Thomas says the man she dated for two years was possessive and lowered her self-esteem with verbal and mental abuse.
"My friends would say do you not see this? I think I was so consumed by the relationship, I almost got use to the things that he did," said Thomas. "They would start out small and get bigger and bigger."
In 2009, when Thomas finally broke it off with her boyfriend, he threatened to kill her and broke into her home.
But in the end, Thomas says he turned the gun on himself.
In 2012, Thomas is studying Criminal Justice in college.
Thomas has also formed a charity for women who share her story called "Linens for Ladies."
"You can move on, it might be difficult, but you can move on," Thomas added. There is life after this and it can be a very good life."
Sheriff Ravenell says this year five women in the county have died from their abuser.
"In some way all of us have been victimized by domestic violence," said Ravenell.
One as recent as last month, investigators found a woman beaten to death and her body buried under a pile of trash.
"In Orangeburg County we are going to attack this problem head on," Ravenell added.
The sheriff says the key is education.
Deputies will conduct town hall discussions and partner with faith-based groups, barbers and hair salons throughout the month of October for domestic violence awareness month.
If you, or someone you know, are a victim of abuse there are ways to find help. One of those resources is Sistercare. You can reach them at 800-637-7606.