Metro Atlanta woman turns tragedy into action, speaking out against domestic violence

Nearly 20 people every minute suffer physical abuse at the hands of their partner. October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month. One metro Atlanta woman is speaking out, telling her own personal story of tragedy to bring awareness to the problem of domestic violence.

Ladonna Roberts can’t help but wonder what kind of man her son, Austin, would’ve turned out to be. "Not a day goes by that I don’t think about him," said Roberts, CEO of the Austin Tyler Foundation and survivor of domestic violence. "I think what he’d be doing, how he would look."

Roberts back in 2004 told her ex-boyfriend she was moving from Albany to metro Atlanta for a new job. "He didn’t like that," she said.

She went to pick up their then-4-year-old son from school. Her ex-boyfriend, Andrew Hayslip, an on-duty Albany police officer, was already there. "Immediately he said, ‘You’re moving for a man.’ And he pushed me," Roberts said.

Roberts, a former police officer herself, dialed 911. "He then turned around. He pulled his service revolver, shooting me once, walking past me, calling out for our son, shooting him, and then shooting and killing himself," she said.

Hayslip killed their son. "He wanted all of us to die," she said.

The 15-year veteran had a history of domestic abuse. He was charged with making terroristic threats, battery, and child cruelty in 2003. "I didn’t see the sign at the time," Roberts said.

Roberts, who now lives in Loganville, turned her personal tragedy into action, launching the Austin Tyler Foundation, named after her late son "to embrace, educate and empower women and children."

About 10 million people each year suffer from domestic violence. Most cases happen behind closed doors. Abuse cuts across class, culture, gender and sexual orientation. It can take the form of physical, psychological, economic, and sexual abuse. "It’s imperative that you get help," Roberts said.

And it can turn deadly. "It never ends. There’s always a next time. A worse time. It may be where you don’t survive," she said.

Austin would’ve been 23. Roberts says there is light at the end of the tunnel. But we all must do our part and speak out. 

Call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233 or contact the Austin Tyler Foundation if you or someone you know needs help.