Last year the Cumbee Center presented a series of articles that began with “Wishing the Cumbee Center wasn’t needed” with a futuristic date of Oct 1, 2015. While that continues to be a wish and a hope, police reports and media lets us know there is still a need for our services.

In 2011, the Aiken County Sheriff’s office received 1,510 domestic complaints. Of those, 365 were written and verified as domestic violence, including five that were domestic violence homicides. From Jan. 1, until Sept. 3 the Sheriff’s Office received 1,264 domestic complaints. Of those, 271 have been written and verified as domestic violence.

In 2011, the City of Aiken received 900 domestic complaints. Of those, the victim services advocate received 77, as domestic violence cases. From Jan. 1 to Aug. 31, The City of Aiken received 715 domestic complaints. Of those, the victim services advocate has received 59 as domestic violence cases, including two domestic violence homicides.

And there are still two months left in this year. These numbers do not include other local municipalities such as the Burnettown, New Ellenton or North Augusta law enforcement agencies. These are only the reported numbers of two agencies.

While the economy is still weak and employment figures continue to rise and fall accordingly, these issues are not the blame for domestic violence in our society. The use of domestic violence, domestic abuse or family abuse is not the result of anything. It is a choice an abuser chooses to use to express their feelings. It is an excuse used to justify an inappropriate, unnecessary and possibly criminal behavior. It is a behavior that has been learned and a choice that is being made.

Assault, burglary, robbery, and murder are crimes – crimes against a person and/or society. The perpetrators are held accountable and punished as the laws of this city, state and county deem necessary upon conviction. There is no standard of behavior, justified explanation or accepted rationale that would allow anyone responsible for any of the above crimes to not be acted upon.

There’s always an excuse for the violence.

“She wasn’t listening to me, so I hit her, knocked her down,” –you fill in the action.

“She knew better than to do or say what she did. I have a quick temper. She needs to learn to stay out of my way when I get mad.”

Imagine a defendant telling a judge, “Ah, Your Honor, I’ve been watching their house and they have a lot of nice new things and I wanted them. I don’t have a job, so I kinda, sorta, just took them for a while. I was taking them back.”

We have been taught, and we teach our children and students, that we are responsible for our actions.

When are we going to hold abusers accountable for violence toward women, men and children? Are we not tired of South Carolina being in the top 10 in the nation for domestic violence?

Wishing that the Cumbee Center could reduce its hours or even become a bed and breakfast will remain just that – a wish. Last year, the Cumbee Center provided services to 1,230 victims of domestic violence and sexual assault and the Unity Program provided services to 42 abusers. These numbers represented only the victims and their families who are brave enough to seek assistance.

The population for Aiken County alone is estimated to be 160,682, according to the U.S. Census. If you add the populations of the remaining five counties – Edgefield, Saluda, McCormick, Barnwell and Allendale – that the Cumbee Center serves, that grows staggeringly. Imagine the women, children and yes, men, who don’t seek assistance and who don’t call law enforcement.

The need for programs such as ours still exists and will continue until we decrease that need. Ending domestic violence is up to all of us.

Barbara Sanders is a case manager for the Cumbee Center and is a nationally certified victim advocate, as well as a state certified victim advocate for South Carolina.