Process for leaving abusive relationship often begins in courtro - - Columbia, South Carolina

Process for leaving abusive relationship often begins in courtroom


For victims of criminal domestic violence, facing their abusers can be emotional and traumatic. Sistercare, an organization in the Midlands designed to help abuse victims, offers more than just shelter.

The process to leave an abuser can be lengthy and it often starts in the courtroom, and that's a very unfamiliar place for many victims. Sistercare has special people to help women through the difficult process.

"You can go from feeling very dark and lonely, to coming out ahead and very professional and living safely," said Melissa Garner, Sistercare's court advocacy officer.

Over the past 13 years, statistics show an average of 33 women have been killed each year by their domestic partner in South Carolina.

"With Sistercare, we're just trying to help the victims and the children get out of these situations," said Garner.

Garner spent 14 years in law enforcement. Now she works with Sistercare as a court advocacy officer to help women through the legal process of getting away from the abuse.

"We accompany women to court. We inform them how they should dress and how they should act in court," said Garner.

Fear is the main emotion and Garner says she sees it all the time. Fear of losing finances, losing out on love, or even facing a judge. That fear sometimes forces women to drop the charges and return to the abuser.

"The main part is just reassurance that we're going to get them through because they're incredibly nervous," said Garner.

"Once they see that batterer, they just fall to pieces."

Garner is one of several officers who stand with the victims -- step by step; emotionally and physically -- to not only help fill out paperwork, but ultimately to help them move forward.

"Once you're here, we wrap our arms around you and we'll hold you the whole way," said Garner.

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