Get to Know the 24%: Senator Katrina Shealy
Reforming Domestic Violence and Child Protective Services in South Carolina
Senator Katrina Shealy represents the 23rd District in the South Carolina State Legislature. She entered the South Carolina political scene as a petition candidate, and worked very hard to win her seat by 10% of the voting margin. Her win made her currently the only woman in the South Carolina State Senate, a factor that has not restricted her from being a leader in the Senate and in the state.
In just three short years, Senator Shealy has already passed 10 different pieces of legislation as a primary sponsor. Most recently she co-sponsored a bill, also known as the Domestic Violence Reform Act, establishes stronger criminal penalties for persons convicted of domestic abuse. South Carolina is currently ranked number one in the nation for the most victims of domestic violence. The bill, which was passed into law at the end of the 2015 session, prohibits persons convicted of certain degrees of domestic violence to possess weapons. She recalled, “When that bill passed it was one of my proudest moments as a legislator.” Not only was this an outstanding legislative accomplishment, but this bill in particular was very personal for Senator Shealy. She stated, “My sister was a victim of domestic violence for many years, and her husband ended up committing suicide on the hood of her car. Passing this bill was a great moment for us because so many people were watching, and listening.” This bill was an important triumph for women in South Carolina. It highlighted an important issue that is often overlooked by male senators. “If [legislation] isn’t considered a ‘glamorous’ issue, most men don’t get involved,” Senator Shealy stated.
In addition to working on issues of domestic violence, Senator Shealy has been working resolutely to reconstruct the South Carolina Department of Social Services. She argues, “The current system is failing. South Carolina has the highest number of child deaths under the Department of Social Services, with roughly 65 child deaths just this past year.” She is currently working on the South Carolina Child Welfare Reform Act, a bill that abolishes the current Department of Social Services, and establishes a new Department of Family Protective Services in its place. This bill reduces the workload of overburdened social workers, allowing for the Department of Family Protective Services to conduct child-welfare investigations and manage the foster care system, while programs, like Medicaid, are redirected to the Department of Health and Human Services.
Senator Shealy advises young women to get involved in politics, stating, “Women have something to give. There are so many female constituents that need help and support. Don’t be afraid to go across the aisle—work with members of your opposing party. You can accomplish so much.” She recalled her own experiences, and admits that she braved many obstacles during her time in politics, but ultimately, she overcame them. “If you try, you can win. And if you don’t win the first time, try again."
About the Author
Farnaz Alimehri joined Women In Government as a Graduate Policy Fellow in June 2015 after successfully completing the Future Women In Government Program at the Western Regional Conference in May 2015. She graduated Summa Cum Laude in May 2015 with a Bachelor of Arts in Politics and Minors in French and Spanish from Regis University in Denver, Colorado. In the past, Farnaz worked as a Legislative Intern at the Colorado State Capitol, and as the General Manager of KRCX, Regis University Radio. Farnaz is currently pursuing a Master of Arts in Security Studies at Georgetown University's Walsh School of Foreign Service with the intent on graduating in May 2017.
About Future WIG
Women In Government supports women of all ages in leadership roles, and is working hard to ensure that young women are given the resources and mentorship they need in order to achieve their goals. This program takes place at WIG Regional conferences, where WIG asks women state legislators and leaders in the private sector to encourage young women across the country to pursue leadership roles. This program is made possible by Southwest Airlines.