CAMDEN By SHEA WILSON
If you are a victim of domestic violence, the Camden Police Department has resources. Domestic Violence Advocate Barbara Quarles, and Assistant Advocate Jeanette Sewell work with the police to assist victims in escaping from threats to their safety. The Domestic Violence Unit has been serving Camden since 2008.
October is National Domestic Violence Awareness Month, but victims can find a welcoming and helpful environment any day at the local police department. The lobby has a large sign that asks, “Is your relationship healthy?” Nearby is a display with brochures on domestic violence, preventing child abuse, stalking, sexual assault, and cyber-bullying. All of the brochures have the phone number for the victim advocates, which is 870-836-5755.
Quarles said that as of Sept. 26, CPD has received a total of 177 domestic violence calls this year. Police have made 104 arrests based on those calls and there are 17 active warrants for arrests.
“Domestic violence arrests vary,” she said. “The numbers may seem low, but some of our arrests are juveniles and they are taken care of in juvenile court unless the prosecutor thinks it is serious enough to try them as an adult.”
Quarles said cases vary. “If we have a stalking, we deal with stalking violation order of protections which are required to be in place before a stalking charge can be made. We work with victims of violent crimes to help them get orders of protection. A lot of times me and Jeanette will go to court hearings in their stead, so the victim does not have to be present until they have to testify.”
CPD Chief Boyd Woody said the connections the advocates have is an invaluable resource. “These girls have connections with the Women’s Crisis Center, with law enforcement … they are that middle person that can help out the victims with all their different types of needs, whether it’s housing, legal assistance. They can lead them to whatever information they need. I think a lot of victims don’t understand that there is a lot of help out here.”
And victims often stay because they don’t understand that help is available. That’s why Sewell tries to work on empowerment when dealing with victims.
“I try to help the woman be empowered,” Sewell said. “You may have depended on him before, but it is not worth the cost of him beating you and your kids seeing this. You may not see it now, but if your kids see this, it’s going to continue. They may end up getting abused or one day abuse someone else. It’s not always easy to start your life over, but it is worth it. It may be hard, but it is not always going to be hard.”
Woody says laws have changed through the years in the favor of victims. Laws applicable to choking, violence against pregnant women and Laura’s Law have had an impact.
“The laws have gotten tremendously better for the victim,” Woody said.
Laura’s Law is a lethality assessment, according to the University of Arkansas Criminal Justice Institute.
The requires Arkansas police officers responding to domestic violence incidents to ask victims a set of questions to evaluate their risk of being killed by abuse, such as whether the offender has ever used a weapon against the victim or controls most of the victim’s daily activities. The assessment aims to help identify victims in severe danger needing intervention. Police also must present victims with a “Laura’s Card,” a document listing their rights and contact information for local prosecutors and shelters.