Melissity Hayes has for three years been a volunteer at My Sister's House, a North Charleston women's shelter and support organization for domestic violence victims.

Before her estranged husband was released from jail last week, she obtained a restraining order against him, people familiar with her case said.

Still, Hayes and her family were not spared.

Authorities said Ronald David Ratliff fatally shot his 65-year-old mother-in-law Saturday, before eventually holing up in Hayes' attic. On Tuesday, they said he shot

Hayes in the shoulder before turning the gun on himself.

Such irony — an informed and proactive victim falling prey to a repeatedly abusive partner — is not uncommon, advocates for victims of criminal domestic violence said during a panel discussion Wednesday night at the Charleston County Public Library.

Elmire Raven, executive director of My Sister's House, said Hayes 'did everything right.'

'She did her part,' Raven said. 'But you can do everything right and it still doesn't help. They'll still come after you.'

South Carolina is the ninth worst states in the country in the ranking of violence against women, according to a study released in September by the Violence Policy Center, a national nonprofit group.

Hayes, who was treated and released from a hospital, did not return a call for comment. Her father, Richard Hayes, declined comment.

Hayes called her victim's advocate following her mother's brutal shooting Saturday evening in her West Ashley home.

The advocate referred her to Liza's Lifeline, a support group that provides victims of domestic violence with money for apartment down payments, gas, bus tickets and other means to escape partners who have threatened or harmed them.

Organization President Doug Warren, who said his group can get victims help within an hour, said Liza's Lifeline set up Hayes in a motel room where she stayed until returning to her West Ashley house on Tuesday.

Warren — who said his own daughter, Liza Ellen Warner, was murdered by her abusive husband

in New York in 2004 — said his organization aims to be available fast to 'fill the gaps' between an abusive home situation and the transition to a shelter or new apartment.

'We used to read the papers and think, ‘Oh that poor family. What a loss,'?' Warren said. 'Then we became that poor family.'

The Hayes' situation hit Warren especially hard.

'It brings us back to what we went through as parents,' he said.

Reach Renee Dudley