Putting an end to domestic violence was the goal and the color purple was prominently displayed Wednesday morning as law enforcement officers, elected officials and survivors marched together in a one-mile trek that started and ended at the Pine Bluff Civic Complex.
Deputy Police Chief Susie Powell, who helped organize the march and program and served as master of ceremonies, said the military honors people who are wounded by awarding them a Purple Heart “and purple means women had the courage to survive this (abuse).”
The month of October is National Domestic Violence Awareness Month, and according to Powell, every nine seconds, somewhere in the world, “a woman is assaulted.
“Sometimes we get complaints who say we stick up for women, not men, and actually, some men are abused, but the majority of the victims are women,” she said.
“Domestic violence has no gender, no age and no color,” Mayor Debe Hollingsworth said. “Tragically, it’s a way of life for many in our community.
“The City of Pine Bluff recognizes that it is not just a local occurrence,” Hollingsworth said. “It’s a national tragedy, and it decreases when people have the courage to report it.”
According to national statistics, one in four women will be the victim of a domestic violence incident in their lifetime, and 1.3 million victims are assaulted each year by an intimate partner.
Hollingsworth said 85 percent of the victims are women, and most of the incidents are never reported because of fear, retaliation or because victims are ashamed.
Police department statistics from 2010 indicated that there were 965 incidents of domestic violence reported, resulting in 385 arrests. So far this year, Hollingsworth said there have been 578 incidents reported.
“The numbers are still unacceptable, but they are declining,” Hollingsworth said. “It’s our responsibility as a city and as a community to make a stand. Don’t let this be a one-day thing.”
Karen Palmer, the director of the CASA (Committee Against Spouse Abuse) Women’s Shelter, encouraged the crowd of about 100 to spread the word about the shelter.
“We’re all about helping the victims,” she said. “We want victims to know we’re here. The abuser will tell her (the victim) that she has no place to go. Nobody cares. Nobody loves her but him.”
Palmer also reminded the crowd that there is never a charge for victims, and the shelter is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
“We never close,” she said, adding that calls are answered 24 hours a day by a real person trained to deal with a victims’ questions and not an answering machine.
To contact the shelter, call 535-2955.
Also speaking was Prosecuting Attorney S. Kyle Hunter, who marched along with members of the Victim-Witness Division of his office.
“It was an honor to walk with these officers who answer domestic incidents, never knowing what they’re going to walk into, and with the survivors who have had the courage to stand up and say ‘no more,’” Hunter said.
Hunter said his office has two responsibilities: hold the offenders accountable for their actions and provide support and services for the victims.
“Homes need to be safe places, not only for children but for adults,” Hunter said. “We must find peaceful solutions to problems rather than resorting to violence.”
Powell also introduced Pine Bluff City Attorney Althea Hadden-Scott, telling the crowd that if an offender is not arrested within the first 12 hours of a first-time domestic violence incident, it is up to the victim to go to the city attorney’s office to file charges. She also talked about an order of protection, which victims can obtain by contacting the Victim-Witness Division of the Prosecutor’s Office.
“It’s difficult to deal with domestic violence on the front end, but we’re good at solving cases in their aftermath, perhaps too good,” said Police Chief Jeff Hubanks, who left a meeting to show his support for the program.
“Preventing domestic violence begins in the home,” Hubanks said. “Parents, raise your boys to be gentlemen and your girls to be strong young women.
“Maybe, one day, a march like this won’t be necessary,” he said.