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Speakers call domestic violence a public health crisis

Empty dresses and shirts represent people killed in 2017

dresses and shirts on clothes line
Clothes hang between trees in the lawn in front of the Medical University of South Carolina at the October 17 Do No Harm rally. Photos by Sarah Pack
Helen Adams | adamshel@musc.edu | October 19, 2018

Nancy Faglie is a survivor of domestic abuse. But when she began to speak at the Charleston Do No Harm rally, which was designed to raise awareness about intimate partner violence, she didn’t focus on herself. She talked about two other women.

“Two years after I got out of a very violent relationship, I lost two friends within six months. They were both murdered.”
 
One worked with Faglie at a Department of Corrections training academy and confided in Faglie about being abused by her husband. “She told me about some of the things that were going on and I referred her to Sistercare.” Sistercare is an organization in Columbia, South Carolina, that helps victims of domestic violence.
 
“I knew how lethal he was and I asked her to move out of state,” Faglie continued. “She couldn’t do it because of her two kids. She chose not to.”
 
Nancy Faglie at a podium

Nancy Faglie speaks at the Do No Harm rally.
Her friend did decide to leave her husband. But the trouble didn’t end there. “He broke into her house, waited, told their son not to say anything.”
 
When the woman arrived, Faglie said, he held a gun on her. “He duct-taped her, he handcuffed her and walked her downstairs. A neighbor downstairs who worked at the women’s center knew [Faglie’s friend], knew what was going on. He jumped on [the husband’s back]. [The husband] shot and killed the neighbor and then he shot her.”
 
Her other friend, a woman she grew up with, was killed by her husband as well, Faglie said. “She was murdered in her home with her two very small children there. He shot and killed her, picked up the phone and called police. He said, ‘I just killed my wife.’”
 
Domestic violence affects everyone from families to police to people who come into contact with victims and abusers and their loved ones. “This is a public health crisis. It seeps into every piece of our communities.”
 
That impact was on full display at the October 17 rally. Dresses and shirts representing women and men killed in incidents of domestic violence hung on lines between trees. Notes briefly described what had happened. In some cases, they noted the children who were left behind to deal with the aftermath.
 
shirt on clothesline

A note pinned to a dress describes the murder of a Florence County woman.
Kathy Gill-Hopple is a longtime sexual assault nurse examiner at MUSC Health. While she helps survivors, she’s acutely aware of the victims who don’t make it. “In 2017 there were 38 men and women who lost their lives in South Carolina through intimate partner violence. They were killed by someone who professed to love them.”
 
Another speaker noted that South Carolina is the sixth worst state in the country when it comes to the number of women killed by men.
 
MUSC works with multiple organizations to help survivors, including:
MUSC also has social workers available 24/7 for any patients who come to MUSC Health, including victims of domestic violence.
 
Faglie emphasized the need for people to try to better understand what people in abusive situations are going through. “I hear a lot of times — we ask, ‘Why doesn’t she leave?’”
 
She would know. It took her six attempts before she finally left her abuser for good. 
 
“I’ll give you one example why. My dad came to my house one day to talk to us as a couple. My batterer pulled his 9-millimeter handgun out and left it on the couch. My dad came in and threw it at him, and said, ‘You think you need this, you better use it now.’ I was terrified. Two people that I loved were in conflict and it was my fault — so I thought. But it wasn’t my fault.”
 
Her father went home and told the rest of her family to just stick with her. “'Every time she calls, be there for her.’ And they were, no matter what. They weren’t frustrated with me, they weren’t angry with me. They were there because they understand it was a process to get into this relationship and it’s a process to get out of it.”
 
She did, and went on to become an advocate for others. “If you have a victim and you’ve seen them multiple times, please be supportive. Always be there. Always say ‘I’m always here.’”

Despite reforms, South Carolina still ranks among nation's deadliest states for women (The Post and Courier, Sept. 30, 2018) 

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