Project brings awareness to domestic violence victims

The specter of murdered, victims advocate, Lisa Dawson, permeates the walls of the Clayton County Solicitor General's Office, carrying a message that is unmistakable –– the woman whose job it was to counsel domestic violence victims could not escape the wrath of her own estranged husband.

Dawson, 48, met and communicated online with Kenneth Sands, 40, of Macon, after she separated from her allegedly abusive husband, Lonnie Dawson. Sands made the trip to Jonesboro in March 2006 to pick her up from the courthouse for their first date. She curled her hair, and a co-worker helped her put on red lipstick. Sands arrived with roses.

But police said Lonnie Dawson wouldn't let go of his wife, and stalked her. After Sands and Lisa Dawson went to her Jonesboro home, Lonnie Dawson broke in and stabbed them both to death. Each suffered nearly 100 knife wounds.

A jury found Dawson guilty in 2010 of both murders and Judge Albert Collier sentenced him to life without the possibility of parole.

Lisa Dawson and Sands will be among the victims remembered throughout October as prosecutors kick off Domestic Violence Awareness Month. This year is the county's first time participating in Silent Witness, a national project of domestic violence education and prevention.

The Lovejoy Home Depot donated the materials and labor to make a red, life-sized silhouette for each Clayton County victim from the past several years. Each will display a metal breastplate with the victim's name and story. Solicitor General Tasha Mosley and District Attorney Tracy Graham Lawson will unveil the silhouettes Monday at 5:30 p.m., at the courthouse.

"After the unveiling, the silhouettes will be on display in public buildings throughout the county, and Lisa Dawson and Kenneth Sands will be among the silhouettes," said Mosley. "The silhouettes provide something tangible to a victim's name, they represent a member of our society who is no longer with us."

For reasons not yet identified, Lawson said domestic violence is increasing among teenagers. Mosley speculated that abusers are acting out what they see at home or on reality shows, and the young victims, mostly females, confuse the violent attention with love.

"It's getting worse and worse with the younger kids," said Lawson. "We've seen an upswing with teenagers, so we're collaborating with the school system and the Solicitor's Office to educate youth about the dangers of domestic violence."

The end result is a short, anti-domestic violence film targeting teenagers. It is available for viewing in Clayton County schools as an educational tool. Mosley said victims in violent relationships often stay silent, so neither they, nor their abusers get the help they need. The film was made from the perspective of that age demographic, to increase the chances that young people will listen.

"The kids wrote the script and star in it," said Lawson. "Prevention and education are so important. No one should ever be hurt."

Mosley said it is also important for abusers to know that society will no longer turn a blind eye to domestic violence.

"We can't let this crime remain silent," she said. "If we don't stand up and say something, otherwise, we will have another silhouette and that's what we don't want. Your crimes are coming to light. We will not let you take another citizen from this county. Enough is enough."