Pine Bluff Police Chief Brenda Davis-Jones stood in front of the CASA Women’s Shelter at noon Friday to welcome participants to the first PBPD Domestic Violence Walk.
“Welcome to our first ever walk for domestic violence awareness,” Davis-Jones said to approximately 100 people. “Domestic violence is a big problem in our community. We must take a stand. This must stop. This is our cause to show that we will stop domestic violence in Pine Bluff. I am so glad to see how many of you came out today and I thank all of you for being here.”
Tracie Flenon is a CASA resident who wanted to get her message out to women facing domestic violence.
“I just want to say to all of them, don’t drop the charges,” Flenon said. “Once you have filed charges against them follow through with it. You need to do it for yourself and for your children. I appreciate CASA for allowing me to stay here going on three months.”
“I’ve been able to focus on my drawing since I’ve been here,” Flenon said as she displayed a small portfolio with pictures of her work. “Women in this situation need to follow through on their order of protection. Just don’t drop the charges. They need to know that there are people who will help them and places to go like CASA.”
The walk wound its way down 11th Avenue to Main Street and then north to Eighth Avenue where the procession passed the federal building before assembling on the plaza at the north end of City Hall.
Pine Bluff School Board member Henry Dabner Jr. was one of the walkers.
“I think it is important that we fight to eliminate domestic violence in this community so that when today’s young people get older they will know not to take it when someone tries to hit them,” Dabner said. “People in the community need to report domestic violence if they know of someone who is being hurt by it.”
Fourth Ward Alderman and Pine Bluff mayoral candidate Steven Mays also participated.
“Domestic violence is on the rise in Pine Bluff,” Mays said. “We need to combat it by working together. The police get a lot of domestic violence calls from the same people. We must control it before it gets out of control. We need to work with the Neighborhood Watch, the police and other members of the community.”
Davis-Jones addressed the attendees again from a podium set up in front of the City Hall steps.
“Domestic violence is a top priority for this department and it is an under reported priority,” Davis-Jones said. “Each incident of domestic violence affects a number of other people as well.”
Tonya Johnson Simmons is a domestic violence survivor.
“I am a victim and a survivor of domestic violence,” Simmons said. “My husband pulled a gun on me when he was drunk and pulled the trigger five times. He was so drunk that he forgot to load the gun and I know that was God. I advise any women in a domestic violence situation to prepare a bag with all of your important documents to be ready to take with you when it is time to leave safely. To our families we say support us and don’t turn your back on us. It’s about surviving. This is real. It is not a game.”
Simmons said that she is writing a book entitled “The House that CASA Built” with all proceeds going to CASA.
Debra Moore is another survivor of domestic violence.
“I am a domestic violence survivor from Warren,” Moore said. “I’ve been in Pine Bluff since this summer. In 1997 I was in a marriage that included domestic violence. I have two kids out of that marriage and I love them very much. I thank CASA for helping me.”
Karen Palmer, director of CASA, spoke about the scourge of domestic violence and the services offered by her organization.
“We moved into our new facility in April,” Palmer said. “We have seen victim numbers increasing. We are trying to spread the word that there are services for victims of domestic violence. We have support groups every Tuesday night at 6 p.m.”
Toni Perkins with the Prosecuting Attorney’s Office explained the services offered by her agency to victims of domestic violence.
“We create orders of protection and service rape, homicide and juvenile cases that are associated with domestic violence,” Perkins said. “We process over 500 orders of protection every year on average and we have already exceeded that number this year.”
Pine Bluff Fire and Emergency Services Chief Shawn Howell expressed his support for the cause.
“This issue is very near and dear to me,” Howell said. “I am on the board of CASA. Domestic violence is not acceptable in our city. We want to do everything we can to stop it.”
Shurunda Thrower, a sociology and criminal justice instructor at the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff,
attended the event with 30 of her victimology students.
“On behalf of Chancellor Calvin Johnson and the university, we strongly support you all and stand ready, willing and able to do anything we can to help eradicate this social ill,” Thrower said. “I asked my students to be here because it is one thing to read about what domestic violence victims go through in books but it means a lot more when you can actually speak with people who have been through it.”
Classie Green, president of the Pine Bluff branch of the NAACP, said that she attended as a show of support for the community.
“It was important to take part in this today because this is something that affects all of us as a people,” Green said. “We wouldn’t want any of our family members to be treated badly so it is important to be here today to show love and support for each other. If we look out for each other more we will be more likely to report suspected incidents of domestic violence. We need to look out for each other.”
Pine Bluff Mayor Carl A. Redus Jr. spoke words of support for domestic violence victims and survivors.
“I am absolutely ecstatic to see this crowd out here today,” Redus said. “It is a wonderful sight to see so many people who care. To those who are suffering domestic violence, know that we are here to support you. Chief Jones brought this issue onto the radar screens of the city of Pine Bluff. The city will educate people about domestic violence. We will support victims and their families and we will arrest the victimizers.”