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South Carolina Honors College

Lamenting Lost Mothers

by Ariel Byrnside 

Most of my childhood is a blackout or a blur, yet I can never forget that wretched house with the thin walls that echoed my mother and her husband’s every argument, looping a soundtrack of pain, of glass shattering, of fear or of fire in each of their cries, of “not good enough, never good enough.” I don’t remember the beginning, and I don’t remember the end, but I still see today the torment lying half-dormant behind my mother’s weary eyes. My brother and I lived with my grandmother for a while after that. My mom had no income, nowhere to go. I will never forgive him for what he did to her, yet I am eternally grateful for what he did not do. 

Unlike thousands of others in South Carolina, at least my mother is still alive. 

Too many people never get to reach the resolution my mother did. Instead they are plunged into eternal darkness, their lives stolen by the person they had vowed to love “till death do them part.” In 2019, South Carolina was ranked the sixth-worst state in femicide by the Domestic Violence Advisory Committee. South Carolina has been in the top ten in the nation for over fifteen years, ranking Number One in 2013 and having domestic homicide rates about 1.5 times higher than the national average (Stone and Barber 1). That’s one woman murdered about every twelve days at the hands of a man whose right to bear arms even after prosecution is more protected than his victim's family under South Carolina law. There are many factors contributing to the appalling rates of domestic abuse and homicide in our state, including insufficient victim services, an affordable housing and childcare crisis, and lack of preventative education to protect children and break cycles of abuse. 

Domestic violence is not an ignorable issue, it is a statewide and global epidemic. A study from the University of South Carolina found in 2020 that 42 percent of females and 29 percent of males in South Carolina will experience intimate partner violence at least once in their lifetimes. So why don’t victims of abuse just leave their abusers? There are many reasons: internal justification of manipulation or violence and outside impediments like financial, safety, housing, and legal barriers. If a victim has the means to escape their partner’s abuse, their safety is still compromised; 75 percent of homicides related to domestic violence occur after separation (Domestic Violence Statistics). A study conducted by the South Carolina Interagency Council on Homelessness found that 12 percent of people facing homelessness in South Carolina reported being a victim or survivor of domestic violence, with 48 percent of those survivors reporting that they had not been able to find sufficient, affordable housing within a year after leaving their abusive environments. Ultimately, escaping a cycle of perpetual abuse is a difficult decision to make. No one should have to choose between risking their lives by living in an abusive home and having no home at all. 

Fortunately, there are sixteen organizations across the state providing services to help victims of domestic violence, however, only half offer onsite mental health services or child custody services and only ten provide financial aid (South Carolina Domestic Violence Help). Even if someone in an abusive marriage has the means to leave their marriage safely, these resources are often inaccessible in their area or do not provide the aid victims suffering mental and financial turmoil require to become independent of their abuser. Clearly, providing stable, affordable housing and legal, financial, and mental health services for domestic abuse victims is critical to maintaining their welfare. 

The lack of preventative education and resources in schools only perpetuates the cycle of patriarchal oppression in relationships that can foster violence. According to the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs, 40 percent of child abuse victims report experiencing domestic violence later in life (Domestic Violence Statistics). Growing up witnessing abuse predisposes survivors to justify violence in their relationships (Cycle of Violence). To break this pattern, it is vital for South Carolina schools to provide resources for victims of abuse. All schools need a preventative curriculum in sex education that teaches healthy boundaries, resolving conflicts, and recognizing red flags in relationships before violence occurs. 

Growing up in the southern United States, it is easy to recognize not only the normalization of physical and sexual violence within marriages, but also the taboo of reporting any kind of abuse. Until this culture of domestic violence is changed and South Carolina addresses the prominent concerns in its laws, housing, victim services, and education, we will continue to lament mothers.


 “Cycle of Violence.” Women's Center Youth and Family Services, 
 “Domestic Violence Statistics: A Comprehensive Investigation.” Dolan and Zimmerman LLP, 5 Apr. 2022,

Phillips, Patrick. “Report: Domestic Violence Cost SC More than $350M in 2020.” 


“South Carolina Domestic Violence Help, Programs and Statistics.” Theresa’s Fund,,

Stone, Duffie, and Sara Barber. “S.C. Domestic Violence Advisory Committee.” South Carolina State Documents Depository, South Carolina State Library, 2018, p. 1

Worly, Natalie, et al. “2020 South Carolina State of Homelessness Report.” South Carolina Interagency Council on Homelessness, 2020, p. 14 

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