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November 23, 2010

LITTLE ROCK -- Attorney General Dustin McDaniel hosted community advocates and law enforcement officials from across Arkansas today at a conference aimed at addressing issues related to violence against women.

The group pledged to work together to foster greater collaboration among agencies that work to prevent violence against women. Participants also discussed ways to improve both preventive measures and support for victims.

It was the first-ever meeting of its kind hosted by McDaniel, who hopes the meeting raises awareness of the problems surrounding domestic violence in Arkansas.

The conference was co-hosted by the Attorney General's wife, Bobbi McDaniel, who has taken an active leadership role with the Arkansas Coalition Against Domestic Violence. Mrs. McDaniel was previously president of the board of the Women's Crisis Center in Jonesboro.

"We wanted to bring together the leaders in this field because we know that we can work together to truly make our state a better place for our women and children," McDaniel said. "This problem is bigger than my office or any sheriff's office or any nonprofit agency, but we can make a difference by working toward the same goals. We're all committed to improving the ways we can prevent acts of violence against women, prosecute offenders and help victims recover."

Participants discussed with McDaniel their perspectives on current state policies and talked about their individual roles in helping to curb violence against women. The group agreed to meet again in January, when participants expect to consider recommendations on changes to current policies.

Mary Dillard of the Arkansas Coalition Against Sexual Assault said the conference provide an opportunity to discuss ways to prevent a crime that sometimes goes unreported.

"Sexual assault affects more women than breast cancer, diabetes or heart disease," Dillard said. "It's under-reported, and even when reported, it's often not prosecuted because of the nature of the crime and of our response to it as a society. I know that those of us who are working to end sexual violence against women are grateful to have been invited to this meeting in hopes of making Arkansas a safer place for us all."

In conjunction with Tuesday's conference, McDaniel announced his office has renewed its partnership with WalMart and the Arkansas Coalition Against Domestic Violence to relaunch a poster campaign that provides victims of domestic violence with information about how to get help.

Walmart will place the redesigned posters in the women's restrooms and women's fitting rooms of their Arkansas stores. The posters contain tear-off resource cards that can be privately accessed by women out of sight of their abusers. The cards are printed in both English and Spanish.
The cards provide contact information for a hotline that serves as a statewide referral source for victims of domestic violence, sexual assault and stalking.

The "End the Silence, End the Violence" initiative seeks to encourage victims to find a protected way to seek help, since domestic violence often goes unreported because victims fear for their safety.

"We launched this campaign earlier this year, but it's so important to us that we wanted to continue it with a redesign and renewed emphasis on making sure victims know that there are resources available to help them," McDaniel said. "Violence against women knows no race or socioeconomic status. It affects us all, and we all must be committed to stopping it."