South Carolina currently ranks first for incidents of domestic violence against women. Domestic violence victims often need legal and emotional support to get through an abusive relationship. Sistercare, a partner agency of the United Way of Kershaw County, is an organization which provides support for women and their children in Kershaw County who are in a situation of domestic violence.
Sistercare is a Columbia-based nonprofit organization. Though it provides emergency shelter, Sistercare also offers local services and advocacy programs to assist women right in their community.
A Kershaw County representative from Sistercare spoke about the services Sistercare offers in the county. (For the safety of Sistercare’s clients, the Chronicle-Independent agreed not to identify the representative by name.)
If a woman needs assistance for a legal issue, Sistercare can provide that and possibly provide legal representation.
“Sistercare has an attorney. She covers all five of our counties, so she’s not always available for Kershaw County. If she is available, she will represent (a client) for free.”
Not all cases require legal representation, but may require assistance in filing court orders.
“It is not a necessity to have legal representation. She may request for (her abuser) not to come around her, not to call her or harass her. We can also address custody and child support. That’s an important thing that can be done but not many women are aware of.”
A Sistercare representative can also accompany a client to court.
“It can be overwhelming if you try to go in and file it yourself. I can help them file, fill it out and go to court with them.”
In addition to legal services, Sistercare offers counseling and support groups. A Sistercare representative will meet confidentially with the client to assess her needs and determine which course of action she wants to take.
“The main thing I try to do is let her know there are options for her. She can come in to get counseling or if she wants, she can talk with a group so she can see there are other people who are going through the same thing. She’s not alone and it’s something she doesn’t have to be ashamed of. If she wants, she can get counseling for her children or start divorce proceedings. It’s very detailed personally to the client who we work with -- they are all in different stages of healing,”
Part of Sistercare’s mission is to help women and their children recover from the negative effects of domestic violence.
“Even if it is a relatively healthy marriage, but the two parents decide to separate, the child is going to go through some psychological issues with the process. If you add in the element of abuse or trauma -- it exacerbates that process.”
Sistercare offers counseling for children.
“We do have a children’s counselor who comes down here. She covers three of our counties and she is good about coming down here once a week. For the moms that are utilizing my services, we can get her to come down and meet with her children.”
Sistercare will also help women create a safety plan if they decide they want to leave the relationship.
“It is all very confidential. No one has to know they are meeting with Sistercare. When you leave is one of the most dangerous times … so it is good to have someone providing guidance for you as you walk through that. If they are planning to leave the relationship or if they have left the relationship, we do different types of safety planning.”
Counseling for Sistercare also focuses on helping women walk through any feelings of shame.
“A lot of women struggle with the shame component. This is someone who you love who is doing this to you. If someone on the street punched you, that is assault, that’s a crime. But if this is a man you love, that you have children with, it’s very hard to reconcile that in your head.”
Victims of domestic abuse have to also deal with emotional abuse.
“You never just have physical abuse; there is always emotional abuse that is with it. She is being beat down, her self-esteem is almost gone, she doubts all her decisions, doubts what she does, and the person who is abusive will manipulate the situation to make it seem they deserve it.”
There are various ways the community can assist Sistercare in Kershaw County. Women who use Sistercare’s services often need supplies for themselves and their children.
“We are a nonprofit, so we operate based of what is given to us through the community. If anyone is interested in helping out Sistercare, want to volunteer, or if they want to donate items -- we are always needing baby wipes, diapers, toiletry items and feminine products -- they can call 1-800-637-7606 and request Kershaw County.”
Women who are interested in seeking help from Sistercare can call the crises hotline at (803) 765-9428 and request Kershaw County.