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Domestic violence - get help before it is too late

This is a week in a named month that should not be necessary.

Men should know better than to beat up - or worse - wives and girlfriends and children.

But in a South Carolina that is seventh-worst in America for domestic violence - almost always against women and kids - this week is important.

This week, the spotlight is on all those victims. Victims that need to get help before it is too late. Before they are seriously hurt - or killed.

In Columbia on Tuesday, a ceremony honored the 44 people who died in domestic violence crimes in 2010 - 34 of them were women who died at the hands of men.

In May, police say a Rock Hill man with a criminal history of domestic violence and pointing guns shot his girlfriend to death - then took off on a drunken ride through South Carolina with his 2-year-old son in the vehicle before he was caught.

The woman who died was not a statistic; she was a person.

A woman named Shrece Charlete Robinson, a 25-year-old nursing student. She was the daughter of a great lady named Estelle Robinson and the sister of Ladrena Robinson.

And she died from bullets in domestic violence.

Heroic people such as Estelle Robinson face life without a daughter. Estelle Robinson now is raising her grandson, Zaylen. The father accused of the worst domestic violence imaginable remains in jail pending trial on murder charges.

"We have to deal with that act of domestic violence every day," Estelle Robinson said.

In August, a Rock Hill man suspected of killing his girlfriend hours earlier just across the state line in North Carolina was shot and killed by police in Lesslie after he pulled a gun when officers tried to arrest him.

In September, a man with a history of domestic violence broke into two businesses in York, then shot at police before being killed by officers after a chase through city streets that terrified the public.

Some abusers cannot be helped. The only answer for them is prison bars.

To combat the crisis and try to deter repeat domestic violence through intervention and treatment of first-time offenders, the 16th Circuit Solicitor's Office has set up a domestic violence court that meets twice a month.

First-time domestic violence offenders in cases that do not involve more violent crimes are brought before a judge and assessed to see if the problem is anger, drugs or alcohol - and offered treatment if the case warrants alternative prosecution.

"Domestic violence is a crime; we take it seriously and are working to try to reduce it," said Deanene Thornwell, the prosecutor in charge of the domestic violence program. "The problem can only be handled if victims report it. They need to seek help. They can't let it go on.

"A slap is a crime. A threat of violence is a crime."

Research shows that children who grow up in homes with domestic violence are more likely to be involved in domestic violence in their adult lives, said Ben Motley, who runs the Three Trees Center for Change, a treatment center in Rock Hill for domestic violence offenders.

Motley is holding a seminar on Friday at the Baxter Hood Center that puts a spotlight on the domestic violence abuser. Several past offenders will share stories of how their abuse ruined lives.

"Stopping domestic violence can literally be the saving of a life - that day or down the road," Motley said. "The abuser must be stopped, and the victims have to report it."

Rock Hill has a shelter, Safe Passage, that exists solely to help victims of domestic abuse. Yet domestic violence that goes on, unreported, can be disastrous. Victims can get seriously hurt or killed.

An analysis by the Washington, D.C.-based Violence Policy Center shows that women killed by men are almost always acquaintances of the man who kills them.

"Typically, when you see a violent, very serious crime like this, there was some pattern of abuse or some red flag," said Lt. Mike Baker of the York County Sheriff's Office.

Motley chose to have the training session this week because of Tuesday's ceremony in Columbia honoring the victims of domestic violence and because October is national Domestic Violence Awareness Month.

Thornwell, the domestic violence prosecutor, and others will talk Friday at the event sponsored by several local social services and law enforcement agencies.

"This is the right time for people to look at this problem and figure out how the community can deal with it," Motley said.

Until then, heroic people such as Estelle Robinson will have to face life without a daughter who was killed in domestic violence.

Next year someone will invite the strong Estelle Robinson to Columbia for a ceremony to honor the victims of 2011 domestic violence that should have never happened in the first place.

No ceremony will bring Shrece Robinson back to her mother - or give 2-year-old Zaylen a mother himself.

Tuesday's ceremony - and the ceremony next year - will have faceless cardboard cutouts, as many cutouts as victims.

But victims are not faceless. Shrece Robinson had a beautiful face.

Domestic violence and bullets took that beauty away.

Want to go?

What: "Inside the Criminal Mind: The Domestic Violence Offender"

When: 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Friday

Where: Baxter Hood Center, York Technical College in Rock Hill

How much: $89.99, which includes lunch and materials

Why: The class counts toward required continuing education units for professionals involved in law, medicine and social services.

Information: 803-981-7194

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