Help for Victims of Domestic Violence

A few weeks ago, a man was charged with a double homicide in Sumter, South Carolina.  The man was accused of killing a woman he was involved in a romantic relationship with.  He was also accused of killing her 5-year old daughter.  He may have killed another woman in a different state about one month prior to the double homicide in Sumter.  In a different case, a woman in Richland County was charged with murder.  She had allegedly stabbed her boyfriend. Police had responded to 52 calls for service from the couple’s residence in 2019.  In court, the accused claimed that she had been the victim of domestic violence at her boyfriend’s hands.  His family claimed that the accused woman was the violent one and had previously cut off the deceased man’s ear.

In thinking about these horrific tragedies, I ponder if these people would be alive today if something had been done differently?  Did law enforcement do everything they could have done to protect them?  Should the law enforcement have arrested someone during those 52 times that they were called to that home?  If the abuser had been arrested and convicted, would these victims still be alive today? If our laws were stricter, would that 5-year-old little girl have started kindergarten this year? Of course, no one will ever know the answer to these questions. 

Currently, police officers have discretion whether to arrest or not arrest if they have probable cause to believe that a person is committing or has freshly committed an act of domestic violence.  Would a change in the law requiring officers to arrest when there is probable cause help us lower our domestic violence related homicides?  Or, would it just lead to less victims calling the police?  Again, I don’t know the answer. 

One thing I do know is that there are free resources available to victims of domestic violence who are ready to get out of the abusive relationship.  Lighthouse for Life provides “freedom bags” full of essentials when a victim leaves an abusive relationship.  There are domestic violence shelters like Sister Care and the YWCA that offer emergency housing and counseling.  South Carolina Legal Services (SCLS) offers free legal assistance to victims of domestic violence.  SCLS can help victims get an Order of Protection, custody of their children, or even a divorce from the abuser.  These are just a few of the many resources available.  You can apply for our help by calling 1-888-346-5592 or online at Our eligibility for free legal help depends on your income and your legal problem.

In 2018, 41 people lost their lives in South Carolina as a result of domestic violence. That is 41 too many.  October is domestic violence awareness month.  If you or someone you know needs assistance in getting out of an abusive relationship, please call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233).

October is National Bullying Prevention Month

Bullying is any act intended or that should be reasonably intended to hurt or harm another person that is usually repeated or occurs more than once. Everyone (students, employees, and volunteers) who witnesses bullying or harassment in public schools or even outside of schools when it causes a major disruption in school has a duty to report it to the principal or other appropriate persons.  Unfortunately, society seems to reserve the term bullying for behavior associated with youth.  However, bullying can be found in relationships of all ages and in all social groups.  Adults can be victims of bullying and harassment in many settings: online, at home, at school and at work.  We can identify some forms of bullying as domestic violence, child abuse, sexual harassment and racial discrimination.  

People react differently in an undesirable situation when they perceive that nothing can be changed.  However, there will be a reaction. For victims of bullying, we do not know if the reaction will be internal, external, or a combination of both.  According to a 2017 report by the Joint Citizens and Legislative Committee on Children, in South Carolina, suicide was the leading cause of death for children ages 10 to 14 and the second leading cause of death for children ages 15 to 17.  The Committee on Children also reported that the number of high school students that attempted suicide in South Carolina was significantly higher than the national percentage.  Bullying is not the cause of all suicides, but it can cause or increase mental health disorders.  Also, it is common for bullying or harassment to be mentioned as a trigger for extreme responses such as behavioral issues in school or even school shootings.

Perhaps, if we want to prevent bullying, we should remember, bullying is not something that only happens to children in public schools.  It is a form of abuse similar to domestic violence, child abuse, sexual harassment, racial discrimination and others.  We observe bullying in many forms and cultures, and we become desensitized to it.  It is difficult to prevent or stop, but we should not stop trying. If you need free legal assistance to combat aggression or bullying in any form, apply at South Carolina Legal Services by calling 1-888-346-5592 or online at Our eligibility for free legal help depends on your income and your legal problem.

LGBTQ+ Issues and Resources in South Carolina

The history of the LGBTQ+ community is one that is long and rocky, filled with the struggles of people who even today are having to fight for their rights. LGBTQ+ stands for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, questioning and other sexual identities. Of course, Supreme Court cases such as Obergefell v. Hodges make a huge impact and spur greatly the progress of the community. However, the Supreme Court cannot handle all of the everyday legal issues that members of the community face. Fortunately, at the local levels, legal aid organizations like South Carolina Legal Services (SCLS) are there to handle specifics that one may not even consider at first: name and gender changes on birth certificates, marriage licenses, adoption and divorce.

Just last year, SCLS helped a transgender man get a name and gender change on his birth certificate. He faced a roadblock in his home state which did not recognize gender changes for those in the transgender community. The court there refused his request to change his name and gender on his birth certificate. SCLS took the case and was able to get a judge in South Carolina to order both changes. This client’s experience in his home state shows that the law and society still have a long way to go toward true equality for members of the LBGTQ+ community. At the same time, the successful completion of the case here shows that small, but life changing victories are happening every day.

Local programs also exist to empower people and give them a place in their city or town. South Carolina’s own Upstate Pride was founded in 2008 as a grassroots effort to spread awareness and educate members of the upstate. Their first march had around 500 people attend, and that number has only grown in the years since. Upstate Pride has since garnered support from many local and national resources, businesses, and even some churches.

Other resources include organizations focused on creating positive environments, such as BJUnity, which provides a safe harbor for those in the LGBTQ+ community that have been negatively affected by fundamentalist Christianity. There are medical resources such as AID Upstate that provide support for those living with HIV/AIDS, as well as prevention services. Mobile groups such as PrideLink travel throughout the Upstate, providing assistance with medical and social issues through their mobile community center. Businesses such as Cafe and Then Some in Greenville host frequent drag brunches where tips are donated to LGBTQ+ organizations like Upstate Pride itself.

There are almost constant events being offered throughout the upstate. In fact, Upstate Pride week is October 25th to November 3rd, ending with a drag brunch from South Carolina’s own Delighted Tobehere at Cafe and Then Some in Greenville. SCLS will be attending the Upstate Pride March and Festival at Barnet Park in downtown Spartanburg on Saturday, November 2. We will be providing information and brochures about our services, so come by if you have any legal needs!

SCLS is a non-profit law firm that provides free legal help to low-income South Carolinians. To apply for our services, please call at 1-888-346-5592 or apply online at  

DV Awareness Events

October is National Domestic Violence Awareness month. South Carolina. Every year, South Carolina Legal Services (SCLS) staff members participate in a variety of local activities to raise awareness to the issue of domestic violence and help survivors. This year was no exception.

Our Spartanburg office hosted a donation drive for the benefit of local survivors. With the funds collected, they purchased personal hygiene products and other essential items. Staff then assembled individual bags with these items, legal information and lots of love, and delivered them to the local police department.

Bridget Hall and Rita Roache at No Excuse For Abuse outreach event in Mt. Pleasant. Sponsored by the local police department, this was a display of unity and support by agencies and businesses that work toward a goal of stomping out domestic violence. Bridget and Rita talked to survivors and provided information about the legal help available at SCLS.

The Rock Hill office participated in the Young Lawyers Division’s Voices Against Domestic Violence Shelter Drive. Staff purchased and donated four boxes of toiletries, diapers, washcloths and other personal items for survivors of domestic violence.

In honor of domestic violence victims who lost their lives due to domestic violence, our Greenwood office participated in a balloon release ceremony in Abbeville.