ICYMI: One Victim is Too Many
October 29, 2015
LITTLE ROCK – Today, an op-ed written by Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge appeared in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. The piece detailed actions Rutledge intends to take to raise awareness of and bring an end to domestic violence and sexual assault.
Brutal, shocking, terrible – three words to describe what Sheila from Harrison suffered. It is a tragic, all too common story that needs to be shared to help combat a growing crisis.
After years of violence, ridicule and living in constant fear for her life, Sheila bravely separated from her husband in an attempt to bring stability to her home and create a better life for her 13-year-old son. Sheila obtained an order of protection against her husband, but the separation brought more chaos. Over the next several weeks, Sheila was forced to call the police more than 15 times as her husband tormented her and their son. On Christmas Eve, things took a dangerous turn when Sheila’s husband returned to their home with a rifle. While her son escaped to safety and called the police, Sheila courageously confronted her husband once again. Tragically, Sheila’s husband fatally shot her before turning the gun on himself.
Sheila was one of nine confirmed homicides that were a result of domestic violence in Arkansas last year.
October is National Domestic Violence Awareness Month, and as Arkansas Attorney General, I am making a commitment to take action on behalf of victims like Sheila. While Arkansas is blessed with a network of prevention advocates, committed law enforcement officials and vocal legislators, who work tirelessly to help strengthen and empower victims of domestic violence, far too many incidents of domestic violence are unreported to local law enforcement. One in four women and one in seven men have experienced severe physical violence by an intimate partner. These are inexcusable acts, and even one victim of domestic violence or sexual assault is one too many.
Law enforcement officers are now required to provide “Laura’s Card” to domestic violence victims and their families as a means of providing them with information about available State and local resources. I strongly believe that “Laura’s Card” will be a life-saving resource for those seeking help, and I am committed to working with stakeholders to continue finding ways to make it a valuable tool to help victims and law enforcement by providing the card for Arkansas law enforcement agencies and domestic violence prevention advocates.
It is also important that we teach Arkansas's youth about creating healthy relationships and give them tips to avoid unhealthy and potentially destructive ones. We know that adult domestic violence and sexual assault often begin as teen dating violence. We need to help youth recognize that violent words and actions are tools an abusive partner uses to gain and maintain power and control over his or her dating partner.
As part of my commitment, the Attorney General’s office will establish an ongoing initiative to collaborate with educators and the Arkansas Department of Education. One of the first steps in this initiative will be regional “train the trainer” programs. By starting in schools, my office will help educators to fulfill the requirement of a new law, which requires Arkansas health teachers to provide dating violence awareness instruction in grades 7 through 12, and provide schools with the proper tools and materials to educate young people about warning signs and techniques to end dating abuse. Teaching teenagers how to handle dating violence and to create healthy relationships will go a long way in helping curb the constant cycle of teen dating violence leading to domestic violence.
But this is only the beginning of my commitment to using the resources of my office to end this terrible crisis in our State.
In the last decade, Arkansas has consistently ranked in or near the top 10 States with the highest incidence of domestic violence homicides. My goal is to change that. Arkansas youth will be taught how to have healthy relationships, victims of domestic violence will be provided resources to find the help they need and those who commit domestic violence acts will know that their actions will not be tolerated.
I ask that you join me in helping to share these messages about warning signs of dating violence with young people and advocate for Arkansans in domestic violence circumstances so that those like Sheila’s son do not have to grow up without a loving mom anymore.