Thursday, April 21, 2005

South Carolina: We Love Our Chickens, But Not Our Chicks

Recently South Carolina (motto: shet up an' fetch ma vittles) legislators faced a conundrum. Two very important bills had come before the Judiciary Committee at the same time. In most states this wouldn't be a problem, but in South Carolina lawmakers are required to wear shirts and shoes while working. "Ma ole dogs don' like being cooped up in dem store bought shoes like thet there, "said Representative John Altman, "I needs to git out and feel sum o' dat good Caroliny mud a squishing up between ma toes.

You see the dilemma. Forced to evaluate their priorities, the legislators acted on a bill protecting fighting gamecocks and tabled one that would have made domestic abuse a felony instead of a misdemeanor. Representative Altman was in favor of the gamecock bill. "When I was a chil' ma daddy had chickens. I use' to play in the hen house with ma sister Bessie Lynn Ruthie May. We called her Bitsy. Well, 'til daddy caught us thet time. Bitsy had to go away to school for a while after thet and Daddy sold the chickens and burnt down the hen house."

The domestic abuse bill, which advocates say would protect victims against batterers, was tabled, killing it for the year. Representative Altman was also on the committee that looked at that bill, "I think this bill is probably drafted out of an abundance of igorance." When asked to explain, Altman said, "Well look, I'm not fer beatin' the wimmin folk, lessen' they need it, but I mean you wimmin want it one way and not another. Wimmin want to punish the men, and I do not understand why wimmin continue to go back around men who abuse them."

Vicki Bourus, an advocate for victims of domestic violence explained that there were a number of reasons, "She may have children with that person, and she may fear that it will harm them to live without their dad, or she is majorly financially dependent on his check to feed her children." Bourus added another reason women sometimes stay, "After an incident, a violent incident, quite often the batterer will say I'm so sorry, it will never happen again."

Representative Altman explained that he has worked with abused women He said he tells them not to go back, and when he does, "They listen to me, they don't don't go back." When asked whether he was sure, he said, "At least not while I'm representing her. Not if she knows what's good for her," he said, indicating the large Sam Brown Belt and western style buckle he was wearing."

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