Speaking up against domestic violence

October 03, 2022
A woman stands at a podium in a conference room, speaking to reporters about domestic violence awareness month
Tosha Connors, CEO of My Sister's House (MSH), speaks to a group of gathered reporters as Natalie Caula Hauff, chair of MSH board of directors and Dr. David Zaas, MUSC Health CEO – Charleston, listen. Photos by Sarah Pack

City of Hanahan Mayor Christie Rainwater remembers sitting in an exam room with a close friend, waiting on the doctor to come in and assess her injuries. In the quiet that preceded the doctor’s arrival, Rainwater vividly remembers her friend looking up at her, and through tear-filled eyes, asking, “What do I do now?”

The question hung in the room. After all, the friend’s injuries had come at the hands of the person who supposedly loved her the most – her husband. Sadly, Rainwater’s friend is not alone. According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, 1 in 3 women and 1 in 4 men have experienced some form of physical violence by an intimate partner. And according to the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division, between 2019 and 2020 (the latest data available), the Palmetto State saw a 5% increase in intimate partner violence. And experts fear that the pandemic – and the isolation faced by many at-risk partners – has only exacerbated those numbers.

October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month, and Rainwater was speaking at an event marking the partnership between MUSC Health and My Sister’s House, a nonprofit shelter for victims of domestic violence, serving Berkeley, Charleston and Dorchester counties. She was joined onstage by local politicians, advocates and lawmakers as well as key players representing My Sister’s House. 

MUSC Health Charleston CEO David Zaas, M.D., underscored the importance of the partnership between local health care providers and programs like My Sister’s House. 

“At MUSC Health, it’s our mission, vision and values to truly improve the health of everyone in South Carolina. And that’s not only by providing outstanding clinical care but also through working with our community partners like My Sister’s House,” he said.

That partnership, Zaas said, along with various programs within MUSC Health, such as its Turning the Tide Violence Intervention Program (TTVIP) and MUSC Advocacy Program (MAP), are just the beginning of what’s necessary to slow and lower, hopefully, the number of domestic violence incidences. 

Natalie Caula Hauff, chair of My Sister’s House board of directors, echoed Zaas’ sentiments, while explaining that her organization also goes beyond tending to victims’ basic needs.

A woman holding a microphone recounts a story about how domestic violence impacted a close friend 
City of Hanahan mayor Christie Rainwater recounts a heart wrenching story about a friend affected by domestic violence.

“We are more than just shelter,” she said. “And while that is fundamental to what we do, we also provide things like counseling and therapy and court advocacy. We’re able to provide services like this, thanks to partners like MUSC.”

“Imagine the person you trust the most became violent,” said Tosha Connors, CEO of My Sister’s House. “They go from your most trusted partner to someone you fear. This is a very real scenario and one that we hear hundreds of times a year. That’s why this month is so critical. MSH, MUSC are standing up to ask to the community to speak up against domestic violence.”

Together, MUSC, My Sister’s House, and the City of Charleston, which also has adopted October as Domestic Violence Awareness Month, are hoping to make a positive impact and shine a light on a dark corner of our society. 

In 1989, Congress passed Public Law 101-112 designating October as National Domestic Violence Awareness Month. MUSC seeks to support survivors, remember victims and raise awareness about domestic violence and intimate partner violence throughout the year but also specifically in October with events and educational programs. 

For a list of all of MUSC’s sponsored activities, visit the University's Department of Diversity and Inclusion page.

In addition to TTVIP and MAP, MUSC offers resources for victims of domestic violence, including a Sexual Assault Services program and the National Crime Victims Ressearch and Treatment Center.

You can reach the crisis line at My Sister’s House by calling 843-744-3242 or the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233.

“If we are vigilant,” Rainwater said, “We can truly make a difference in the lives of people who have experienced domestic violence, not to mention prevent things like this from even happening.”