In 2003, Aiken County led the state with the most domestic violence deaths in one year. For at least the last four years South Carolina has been in the top 10 for the most domestic violence cases per year.
Statistics like these have caused South Carolina legislators to take action. As of January 1, penalties for domestic violence offenders got tougher.
“I really think that once offenders see it not going to be a slap on the wrist and then a turn back out the door, they’re going to understand that it’s fairly serious at this point,” said Riley Bost, a Domestic Violence Investigator with the Aiken County Sheriff’s Department.
Under the old law the maximum fine for a first time offender was $500 or 30 days in jail. That’s now jumped to minimum fine of $2,100.
The maximum penalty for second time offenders was $1,000 or 30 days in jail. It’s now $5,000 and a year in prison.
Third time offenders had a mandatory sentence of 90 days in jail. Now a third domestic abuse offense is considered a felony and punishable by one to five years in prison.
Kay Mixon is the director of the Cumbee Center, a refuge for battered women and men. She says the changes are a step in the right direction.
“The best way to reach a batterer is in his pocket,” said Mixon. “They should have to pay.”