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New Law Consolidates SC Victim Services
South Carolina continues to build upon its mission to reduce criminal domestic violence with a new law that consolidates several victim services agencies under the attorney general's office.
"This is the most consequential victims’ advocacy reform since the victims’ bill of rights was passed over two decades ago,” Attorney General Alan Wilson said. “I think it’s going to set the stage for a new era in how we work with, how we protect, and how we serve those who find themselves unfortunately in the position of being a victim of a crime, in South Carolina.”
The new Crime Victim Services Division consolidates the State Office of Victim Assistance, the Crime Victim Ombudsman and several victims’ services grant programs from multiple locations into the attorney general’s office, with one phone number. The transition is still ongoing, but once complete, the new division will be housed in the Brown building on the State House grounds.
“It’s going to basically do for victim services what Costco did for shopping, it’s going to make it a one-stop shop,” Wilson said.
Gov. Nikki Haley’s Domestic Violence Task Force, in recommending the consolidation, said it would be more efficient and effective for victims. But a bill, sponsored by Sen. Katrina Shealy, R-Lexington, had to pass the General Assembly first.
“It was a big undertaking to move all those people into one place,” Shealy said about the difficulty in crafting the bill. “They can just navigate you through this system so much easier, and victims are already struggling. They shouldn’t have any more stress on them.”
South Carolina formerly ranked as the worst state in the country for domestic violence, according to the Violence Policy Center in Washington. It currently ranks fifth, based on 2014 numbers. Lawmakers approved sweeping changes to domestic violence laws and sentencing in 2015.