COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - Standing with a group of lawmakers, victims advocates, and law enforcement officials, Gov. Nikki Haley said it's going to take a culture change to truly reform the state's issues with criminal domestic violence.
At a 10 a.m. news conference, Haley announced through an executive order that she's formed a task force designed to help fight domestic violence beyond the courtroom.
"While I commend our legislators and love the fact that they're looking at legislation and our attorney general is working on prosecution and some other things, what I really have always felt is that domestic violence is a culture issue and that we have to tackle it as a cultural issue and that means very much going from the ground up, saying what we can do to prevent it," Haley said.
The governor acknowledged that any changes to help in the prevention of criminal domestic violence will take years.
"I knew this wasn't going to be a quick fix, but I'm okay. I don't mind this is going to take us longer. I don't mind if this is going to be hard, not when you've got an Army like this," Haley said, motioning to the large group of victims advocates standing behind her during the news conference.
Haley said those changes are going to start at the ground level with better education for the state's citizens.
"Everybody in South Carolina knows about domestic violence," Haley said, "but nobody talks about it. They whisper. They whisper it to their friends, they whisper it to their neighbors, they whisper the fact that that person might be abused, but they never talk about it. That's what we're going to change in South Carolina."
The governor said the task force will be going to every county in South Carolina to take a look at trends, what's going right, and what's going wrong with CDV.
"We're going to take the stigma out of domestic violence," Haley said.
Haley also mentioned the state can no longer afford to be only embarrassed by statistics that show South Carolina near the top when it comes to criminal domestic violence issues. A recent study by the Violence Policy Center found the Palmetto State No. 2 for the rate of women killed by men.
Those stats have pushed legislators and Attorney General Alan Wilson to act.
Pickens County Sen. Larry Martin has proposed a bill that would impose stricter laws on those convicted of domestic violence offenses. It would prevent abusers from possessing a gun while under protective orders, and those convicted of domestic violence would be banned from having a gun for a decade after their sentence is served.
Wilson, meanwhile, held a rally shortly before legislators returned to Columbia in early January to push for CDV reforms.
"You beat your dog and get five years," Wilson said. "You beat your wife you get 30 days. That does not adequately represent the values of South Carolinians."