Domestic violence still a major concern in Horry County

By The Editorial Board

It’s long been accepted that men who were abused as boys are likely to be violent with spouses or significant others. A new compilation of domestic violence cases in Horry County shows that women are charged in nearly one fourth of the situations.

Of 1,142 persons charged with domestic violence at the J. Reuben Long Detention Center in Conway, 23 percent were females. That finding was shocking to Katrina Morrison of Little River. “I wanted to see what is happening,” so she compiled 341 pages of domestic violence cases booked at the Horry County facility from Aug. 1, 2016 through July 31, 2017.

The new trend in more women being charged in part is “attributed to females being raised in violent environments,” she said. It may also be related to male victims being more willing to report their situations to law enforcement.

Morrison presented her findings, in a white, three-ring binder, to Horry County’s Community Violence Sub-Committee. At the same meeting last week, the United Way Association of South Carolina showed committee members a free and confidential application for mobile phones, connecting potential victims of domestic violence with the 2-1-1 system, which puts callers in touch with a variety of social services. The sub-committee was created by the Horry County Council.

Morrison’s data by no means includes all the domestic violence cases in Horry County. The city of Myrtle Beach, for example, handles domestic violence cases in a city facility and those are not included. For 17 years, Horry County has had the highest per capita rate of domestic violence cases in the nation. In the latest data, Horry has fallen to No. 2.

Morrison, a legal consultant to the aviation industry, has organized a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, Retreat With Dignity, and is in the process of establishing a shelter for domestic violence victims. Since the collapse of CASA several years ago, Horry County has not had a shelter for domestic violence victims. The Family Justice Center of Georgetown County has sheltered some Horry victims.

The center is in the process of establishing a Myrtle Beach area shelter, and will receive some funding from the United Way of Horry County in 2018. With an average of 95 cases of domestic violence a month at the Long Detention Center alone, Horry County will continue to have more victims than shelter space. “What I’m doing [falls well short of] what we need,” Morrison said.

“It’s bad; we’ve got a lot of domestic violence,” S.C. Sen. Greg Hembree said. As a long-time prosecutor, Hembree has closely observed domestic violence for three decades. He first prosecuted domestic violence cases in 1987. “I’ve watched it evolve, in a good way. People are more willing to report domestic violence, and police officers are better trained” to handle situations and make arrests. These changes in societal norms undoubtedly figure in the higher numbers.

Thirty years ago, and more recently, judges often viewed domestic violence as a private matter, not for law enforcement or the courts.

“That culture has absolutely changed,” Hembree said. In recent years, the state has earmarked money for additional prosecutors for domestic violence cases. “There was a major, major rewrite of domestic violence in the criminal code.”

Recently, the legislature approved restructuring of state services for victims, placing services under the attorney general.

“Domestic violence was the first recorded crime in human history,” Hembree said, referring to the biblical account (Genesis 4) of Cain killing his brother Abel. “It’s still a terrible problem.”

More women face charges

A random page from a compilation of 1,142 arrests in Horry County lists three men and one woman booked in December 2016 at the J. Reuben Long Detention Center. This shows residence, age, degree of domestic violence charge, bail:

Male (Conway) | 50 | 1st Degree | $50,000

Female (Myrtle Beach) | 27 | 2nd Degree | $2,000

Male (Florence) | 38 | 2nd Degree | $2,500

Male (Myrtle Beach) | 25 | 2nd Degree | $2,500