COLUMBIA, S.C. (BP)–South Carolina Attorney General Henry McMaster announced July 8 a two-year grant which partners the agency with domestic violence assistance agencies and the South Carolina Baptist Convention.
The $900,000 grant over a two-year period will fund prosecution efforts in seven rural counties: Chesterfield, Clarendon, Darlington, Dillon, Marion, Marlboro and Williamsburg.
The South Carolina Baptist Convention will receive no money but will act as a connecting agency between churches and agencies assisting domestic violence victims. The grant is the first of its kind in the U.S. and the only known domestic violence grant to add a faith-based component.
“There is an element of development to this,” said Roger Acton, associate director of the adult ministry group of the South Carolina Baptist Convention. “We want to connect churches with these agencies that are already assisting these victims.”
Acton, who works mainly in ministries to families, stressed the convention’s main goal will be to ensure pastors are aware of the severity of domestic violence in their area. Some victims may be sitting in their pews.
It is what Acton calls an “awareness of what is already out there.”
The partnership will function as a two-way street where domestic violence assistance agencies can refer victims to churches if they so desire and pastors can refer victims to agencies for support. Acton said that most pastors in the state are not trained as domestic violence councilors and need others who are educated to competently aid victims.
“It is equipping pastors to say, ‘I may not be able to fully assist you in every thing you need, but I know who can,’” Acton said. “[This will] help churches work smarter in ministering to their communities.”
And while the grant specifically partners with Baptists around the state, Acton sees it as stretching far beyond denominational boundaries and into any church or pastor in the seven counties.
“There is a kingdom element to this, not just Southern Baptist,” he said.
Domestic violence ranks as top crime problem in South Carolina, with incident reports steadily growing each year. More than 36,000 case of criminal domestic violence were reported in South Carolina last year.