Domestic violence bill hopes to curb repeat offenders

South Carolina continues to rank top of the list for states for the rate of violence against women, according to recent data released from The Violence Policy Center.

Now state lawmakers are turning their focus to find ways to toughen penalties on domestic violence offenders.

At least two bills filed for this session aim to increase penalties for first time domestic violence offenders.

One piece of legislation filed by State Rep. Bakari Sellers, (D-Beaufort) seeks to increase the penalty for first time domestic violence offenders from 30 days to 180 days.

It would also take away the gun rights for those convicted and require them to undergo counseling; an important combination Sellers said will prevent future violence.

"Statistics show that repetitive abuse leads to harsher abuse," Sellers said. "You see the abuse grow and grow with each instance of abuse. So by getting that mental health evaluation at that point, that batterer's intervention, maybe we'll stave off a second go around."

But justice advocates say it's important to not forget the families involved and the extra resources they'll need to break the cycle of violence.

"We need to provide the supportive services for the families, because for a lot of women who are caught up in that violence cycle, many times they're not willing to follow through because they're not willing to leave that situation," said Sue Berkowitz with the Appleseed Legal Justice Center.

The bill is scheduled to head to the house judiciary committee in January.

Copyright 2013 WIS. All rights reserved.