COLUMBIA, SC (WSPA)- Since 1996 South Carolina has ranked high nationally for the number of women killed by men, an alarming statistic that has sparked conversation and legislation reform.

The Violence Policy Center in Washington, D.C. recently released its 2020 violence against women report and for the first time in more than a decade, SC doesn’t rank in the top ten.

“I think in some ways we don’t take domestic violence as seriously as we should be,” said Sara Barber with the SC Coalition Against Domestic Violence & Sexual Assault.

This lack of attention has placed the state in the top 10 nationally for women killed by men for more than 20 years.

But in 2015 lawmakers decided to bring the problem to the forefront, issuing sweeping domestic violence legislation.

Representative Mandy Powers-Norrel explained, “We restricted access to firearms for those who have been convicted of domestic violence causing bodily injury. It gave victims of domestic violence access to childcare, which was huge because we had a problem with victims going back to their abuser because of basic needs like taking care of the kids.”

Penalties were also increased for domestic abusers as a result of this reform. In 2018 the changes became visible when SC dropped in the rankings nationally for women killed by men.

Powers-Norrel continued, “Moving out of the top 10 it’s really sad that we have to celebrate that but we’ve been in the top 10 for so long.”

But those who work with victims of domestic violence say the drop in rankings is not a means to celebrate just yet.

“1 death is always too many. We need to think about trends. What does this look like? If we have 5 years in a row of going down then I think we can be more optimistic about how things are going in South Carolina,” added Barber.

In the meantime victim advocates say the state needs to focus more on resources for victims in order to prevent deadly domestic violence and truly see a change in the numbers.

“If we think about affordable housing..for a Lot of victims they’re sharing housing with their abuser. We’re asking them to leave. Well think about hard it is to leave.”

According to the report, 44 women were killed by men in 2018.

October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month. It’s also the month the state attorney general’s office holds its silent witness ceremony to honor victims of domestic violence here in South Carolina.