Congratulations to the Post and Courier out of Charleston, South Carolina, for winning the 2015 Pulitzer Prize for Public Service. The prize-winning story was a seven-part series titled “Till Death Do Us Part,” an exposé of the policy and cultural failures that have made South Carolina at or near the top of the list in domestic homicides every year.
I praised the piece—written by journalists Doug Pardue, Glenn Smith, Jennifer Berry Hawes, and Natalie Caula Hauff—here at Slate when it came out in August for its comprehensive approach to the problem, showing how cultural attitudes, law enforcement neglect, and legislative indifference all work together to create a state where there’s very little protection for women who have had the misfortune to fall in love with dangerous and violent men. Particularly impressive was the series’ willingness to look at how traditional gender norms work against women seeking relief from abuse. The Post and Courier journalists discovered that legislators on both sides of the aisle had an unfortunate tendency to prioritize keeping couples together, even though experts agree that separating the abuser from his victim until he’s had months—years, really—is the best way to keep her safe. The result is a state where the first-offense punishment for beating a dog is five years but only 30 days for beating your wife.
The South Carolina legislature did initially respond to the reporting by introducing bills meant to curb the problem of domestic violence in the state. But as the Post and Courier reported on Monday, those bills all seem to be stalling out. The reflexive right-wing politics of the state—which the Post and Courier flagged as the problem—continue to make movement on this issue impossible, it seems. “Among one of the sticking points is a provision that would remove guns from the homes of domestic abusers,” Andrew Knapp of the Post and Courier writes. More than three-quarters of voters in this highly conservative state support a law that would bar convicted domestic abusers from owning guns, but pro-gun legislators in the state keep killing even the mildest attempt to separate convicted abusers from their guns.