Solicitor: Domestic Violence Court Will Empower Victims, Cut Cri -

Solicitor: Domestic Violence Court Will Empower Victims, Cut Crime

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Greenville County's new Criminal Domestic Violence Court held session for the first time Thursday. Greenville County's new Criminal Domestic Violence Court held session for the first time Thursday.

Greenville County is trying something new to curb a statewide problem -- a court just for criminal domestic violence cases.

South Carolina leads the nation as one of the worst states for domestic violence.

It took five years of abuse -- five years in and out of courtrooms -- for Sharon Totherow to leave her husband.

“It wasn't until my son made a comment to his teacher in his class when he was four that Daddy had a knife to Mommy's neck," said Totherow.

She said going to court was a long, nightmarish process with few results.

“For me, it was like reliving it all over again," said Totherow.

But now, a new page for the court system in Greenville County.

After a year-long pilot program in Simpsonville, a countywide criminal domestic violence court held session for the first time Thursday.

Everyone arrested for first-time criminal domestic violence in the past 45 days in Greenville County went before a judge. There were 83.

Thirteenth Judicial Circuit Solicitor Walt Wilkins said this monthly CDV court will get cases from crime scene to courtroom in weeks, not months.

“They were mixed in with traffic tickets, and DUI arrests, or larcenies, or property damage cases and they wouldn't initially have their appearance for four to six months,” said Wilkins.

He said CDV court gets first-time offenders the counseling they need quickly to prevent future, more violent cases.

The victims who come to court are connected with victim advocates, shelters and counselors all in one place.

Totherow said, for her, it would have made all the difference.

"I didn't know where to even go, where to start. I think it would have helped a lot knowing someone was out there, helping me, supporting me, knowing what I was going through," said Totherow.

Wilkins hopes the process will empower victims and they will be more willing to help prosecute their abusers.

South Carolina has a maximum sentence of 30 days in jail for a first-time CDV offense. S.C. law caps the bond judges can set for first-time domestic violence charges at $5,000. That means right now, someone accused of beating up their spouse can get out of jail for $500 or less.

A spokesperson for South Carolina Attorney General Alan Wilson said the AG is talking to state legislators about trying to raise the cap to $30,000 or drop it altogether.

Domestic violence resources:

Greenville County

Safe Harbor

Hotline: 800-291-2139

Phone: 864-467-1177

Spartanburg County

SAFE Homes, Rape Crisis Coalition

Hotline: 800-273-5066

Phone: 864-583-9803

South Carolina Coalition Against Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault

Hotline: 800-260-9293

Phone: 803-256-2900

Curbing Domestic Violence: What's Working, What's Not

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