Special Report part 4: The violence at home

CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCIV) - Domestic violence is a critical issue in South Carolina, and victims and those who work for them are looking for solutions.

South Carolina doesn't have a statewide awareness campaign to inform and teach people about the dangers of criminal domestic violence. Experts say it's desperately needed, though.

People who have spent time either helping or dealing with a tragedy believe more needs to be done to curb the violence and end the bloodshed.

"She was a real sweet girl, never had no trouble with her," said Delores T. Dawson.

Dawson has loving memories of her daughter, Zakiya Lawson. The mother of seven was shot to death in North Charleston by an ex-boyfriend in June 2013.

She was 34 years old.

At the time, Dawson didn't realize her daughter would become part of a dubious statistic in the Palmetto State.

"I'm aware of it now because of what happened to my daughter. I used to hear about it but I didn't know it was this bad in South Carolina," she said.

Post and Courier journalist Jennifer Berry-Hawes has researched and written about the issue. She's reminded every day about the death toll and what needs to be done to shine a light on a brutal topic.

"Domestic violence has been around for so long. We've been talking about it for some time that still education awareness is a big part of the problem. So that's one thing that we really hope that this series will address is to let people know the scope of the problem."

As Berkeley County 911 dispatchers continue to take domestic violence calls, victims' advocates like Carole Grunsky at the sheriff's office would like to see more resources available.

"If you don't have money, there's very little you can do. You can't take your children if you don't have money. You can't provide a roof over their head," she said.

State Rep. Jenny Horne promises to continue the legislative fight at the Statehouse.

"The bills that have been introduced in the past we need to re-introduce those and just keep working until we come up with a bill that is meaningful," Horne said.

Until action is taken to stem the tide of criminal domestic violence, Dawson has a warning for anyone caught in a dangerous spot like her late daughter.

"Holler to everybody. Tell them. Daughter. Son. Do not take no abuse from nobody. Don't let nobody put their hands on you," she said.

Some communities are making progress.

The Lexington County Sheriff's Office has a special unit that tracks domestic violence cases and talks with the solicitor's office. As a result, there are almost no deaths in the county caused by abusive relationships.

But that's only one county. Victims' advocates say there needs to be more localized efforts like that to reduce the death rate across the state.