I was surprised to learn that women in fear of being abused by their husbands must go to Georgetown County to find safe shelter.
Horry County has no safe houses of its own to protect mothers and their children from further physical and mental abuse.
A county as large and prosperous as ours certainly has the financial means to support a safe house, but isn’t doing so.
Most everyone we talked to about the situation agrees about the need for a domestic violence shelter. They point to alarming statistics.
The Family Justice Center of Horry and Georgetown Counties says it handles about 45 cases of domestic abuse each month and most of the women needing assistance live in Horry County.
Horry County Police Chief Joseph Hill said domestic violence victims frequently have to be transported to the Georgetown County line where a Georgetown County deputy picks them up and takes them to the safehouse. (The location is kept secret to protect the women staying there.)
Horry County used to have a safe house run by an organization called Citizens Against Spousal Abuse. It shut down many years ago. An organization in Myrtle Beach took in battered women for a few years but closed its safe house in 2015.
At the time, New Directions leaders said they would take in homeless women and children, but they did not believe a domestic violence shelter was needed in Horry County.
People who work daily with domestic abuse cases would probably beg to differ with that assessment.
Gloria Wilson, a victim’s advocate for the Conway Police Department, said she encounters victims of domestic violence on a regular basis.
“We’re really in desperate need,” she said.
Those feelings are mirrored by others who try to help victims of spouse abuse.
The Family Justice Center would like to open a shelter for victims of domestic abuse, but doing so will require a lot of money. The organization estimates it will cost $750,000 annually just to operate such a facility.
This sounds like a huge commitment. However, consider for a moment how much money we spend housing criminals. Think about how much money it costs when a woman has to move to Georgetown, loses her job, and has to go on the welfare rolls.
According to Wilson, women who have no place to go after being abused are more likely to return to the place where the abuse took place. Far too often, this leads to more serious abuse, sometimes death.
I think Horry County and its cities and towns have a moral obligation to protect victims of domestic abuse. If each governing body made a contribution to a shelter for abused people, much good could be accomplished at a modest cost.
Horry County Council Chairman Mark Lazarus has indicated he is open to further discussion along these lines.
Hopefully, the Family Justice Center can present a plan in the near future that will convince this county to protect battered families.