‘We can actually help’: Domestic violence victims find refuge at Rock Hill agency

Rock Hill agency aims to help domestic violence victims

For York, Lancaster and Chester County residents suffering from domestic violence, Safe Passage in Rock Hill provides shelter, guidance and advocacy. The agency helps provide counseling services, emergency shelter and connection to local resources.
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For York, Lancaster and Chester County residents suffering from domestic violence, Safe Passage in Rock Hill provides shelter, guidance and advocacy. The agency helps provide counseling services, emergency shelter and connection to local resources.

A domestic violence call earlier this year ended with one law enforcement officer dead and three others wounded. That case has brought domestic violence to the spotlight in this region.

When a Jan. 15 domestic violence call turned violent, York County Sheriff’s Office detective Mike Doty was killed. Three other officers were shot, hospitalized and later released. Doty died in what police described as an ambush. Christian Thomas McCall, 47, is charged with murder and attempted murder.

Deputies had responded on a separate occasion to the McCall home, York County Sheriff Kevin Tolson said. In that 2015 allegation of domestic violence, McCall claimed to be the victim. No charges were filed.

Domestic violence is a problem statewide.

In 2015, South Carolina ranked fifth in the nation among states with the highest number of women killed by men, a rate of 1.83 per 100,000 females. Those are the most recent statistics available, according to a report by the Violence Policy Center. The national educational organization provides research and information on topics such as gun violence.

In South Carolina, domestic violence service providers who receive state and federal support, including Safe Passage in Rock Hill, received more than 18,000 calls in fiscal year 2015 to their crisis lines, according to the South Carolina Coalition Against Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault.

“It’s a national issue,” said DeNea Means, domestic violence coordinator for Safe Passage.

For York, Lancaster and Chester County residents who are victims of domestic violence, Safe Passage provides shelter, guidance and advocacy.

The agency helps provide counseling, emergency shelter and connection to local resources, Means said. She said Safe Passage also advocates for clients in the courtroom and connects them to an attorney who may help with custody cases, divorce and orders of protection.

“It gives (victims) a sense of assurance and makes them more comfortable,” she said.

Means said, in her four years with Safe Passage, she has seen the number of calls from people seeking help increase each year. Last year, Safe Passage had 700 crisis calls, she said.

“I think we’re doing a better job at getting the word out about our services so people feel more comfortable reaching out to us for help,” Means said. “It’s a good thing we’re getting the calls because people know we can actually help them.”

Means said people have found the courage to speak out because of recent sexual harassment and domestic violence cases that made national news.

“People feel more comfortable coming forward because they know they aren’t going to be chastised in a negative way for reporting what happened to them,” Means said. “... People get strength from seeing other people tell their stories.”

Means said it’s important that domestic violence victims have a support system. She said it’s common for people to leave an abusive situation as many as seven times, before they leave permanently.

More resources are needed, Means said, because it can be difficult to leave an abusive situation.

“A lot of the clients we see are starting to rebuild their lives, and you can’t really rebuild a life with an apartment that costs $900 when you’re getting a job for the first time in 10 years,” she said. “It’s difficult for a lot of our clients to start picking up the pieces when the climb seems so high.”

Recognizing abuse

Not everyone understands that they’re in an abusive situation, Means said.

“Some people are raised in situations where domestic violence is normal,” she said.

Recognizing different types of abuse is crucial. Physical abuse includes more than hitting. It can include pulling hair, denying access to food, driving recklessly with the other person, locking a person outside and other actions.

There also are forms of sexual abuse other than being forced to have sex, Means said. Those can include forcing the partner to dress a certain way or discussions about sexual behavior with someone outside the relationship that make the partner feel uncomfortable.

“If you feel uncomfortable with your relationship or what’s happening, that’s a red flag,” Means said.

There also can be verbal and emotional abuse. That may include harsh criticism, or “anything that makes you feel small,” she said.

Abuse also can include destruction of pets, important property, or taking control of finances.

“Domestic violence is all about power and control,” Means said. “Most people do what that partner tells them to do to protect the items that are important to them.”

Means said people often will stay in an abusive relationship for their children. They believe two parents are better than a single-parent household. Means said, in those situations, children may learn abusive behaviors.

“Healthy parenting is the best parenting,” Means said. “I don’t think anybody wants their young children to grow up to be abusers or be abused.”

Amanda Harris: 803-329-4082