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Advocacy center receives present from local womens organization
Donation makes opening possible
5 Advocacy Center pic 1
Dawson County Woman’s Club President Pat Cavanaugh writes a check for $6,000 to the Dawson County Sheriff’s Office. - photo by Photo/Michele Hester

Dawson County Sheriff Billy Carlisle has worked for years to create a local victim’s advocacy center.


A check from the Dawson County Woman’s Club, proceeds from a garage sale the club held in September, gave Carlisle the push he needed to be able to open the advocacy center in the next few weeks.


Received last week, the $6,000 donation will buy video recording equipment the sheriff’s office can use to interview victims of domestic and child abuse.


“We’re very happy to get this money to move us toward our victim’s advocacy center for the county,” Carlisle said. “We’ve been going to Hall County since at least [1997], when I took office, to interview these victims, so we’ve been needing this for a long time.”


Once the new equipment is installed in the new center on Maple Street, the sheriff’s office can conduct interviews away from the department, where there is little chance of victims coming in contact with their aggressors.


Recorded interviews can then be used by prosecutors in the courtroom, lessening the need for victims to testify in public about difficult topics.


“Keeping the victim out of the courtroom is what we are hoping to be able to do,” Carlisle said.


Katie Strayhorn, a victim’s advocate for the Dawson County District Attorney’s office, said her office is excited to see the new interview room.


“Children are often thrust into situations they have no control over and then asked to talk about them with people they have never met,” she said. “To give them a place they feel comfortable in to talk about those things often minimizes the stress that goes along with the interviews.


“These interviews, in turn, give law enforcement and prosecutors the vital information they need to hold perpetrators accountable for the crimes they committed.”


A member of the General Federation of Women’s Clubs, the local chapter embraced the advocacy project, pledging proceeds from the garage sale.


“The general federation of Women’s Club has domestic violence prevention as a president special project, so it re-emphasizes and just fits,” said incoming Dawson County Woman’s Club President Barb Reynolds.


Reynolds said the woman’s club plans to continue its support of the center. Members are working to find an artist who can paint a calming mural on the center’s main wall.


“The woman’s club looks forward to continuing to work on this project to continue to develop this center to keep meeting needs of the center,” she said.


“We want this to go in the direction that your department sees fit.”


Carlisle said opening the women and children’s center is the first step in his goal to cover all victims of crime in Dawson County.


“This is going toward domestic violence and crimes against children, but eventually we want to grow it so that any kind of victim could be helped,” he said.


The club’s donation to the center is its largest to a single initiative in its nearly three-decade history.