LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – Nearly 40 percent of Arkansas adults have fought domestic violence at some point in their lives.
That’s one of the highest rates in the country, but a new pilot program could change that.
Futures Without Violence awarded a $75,000 grant to the Community Health Centers of Arkansas (CHCA), the Arkansas Department of Health and Arkansas Coalition Against Domestic Violence to help victims.
Arkansas is only one of four states to be chosen.
“One relationship can really change their life forever,” said Brandy Britton, the community outreach specialist for CHCA.
Britton said the three organizations will bring the pilot program to five cities with community health centers that need it most:
West Memphis- Families in Transition
Monticello- Options, Inc.
Pine Bluff- CASA Women’s Shelter
Mountain View- Stone County Abuse Prevention
Fayetteville- Peace at Home Family Shelter
Britton said these locations will allow the state to better serve the LGBT, Marshallese, Hispanic and black communities.
“A lot of people don’t recognize the signs of domestic violence or they don’t want to ask,” she said. “What we’re trying to do is break that taboo. We’re trying to get in to these communities, very rural, very closed off, and start asking some questions.”
“Many health care providers don’t ask questions about domestic violence,” she continued. “They feel like it’s a closed problem, like it’s not their business to ask questions. What we’re doing here is saying as a provider, as an ally for these people, you need to be asking questions.”
Questions, Britton hopes, will ultimately stop the cycle of violence that’s plagued some families for generations.
“It’s something that affects everyone, no matter if it’s direct or indirect,” she said.
It even affects Britton herself. She watched her father abuse her mother for years.
“Lots of drug abuse, negligence,” she said. “Lots of pain.”
Her mother didn’t get the help she needed until Britton was a teenager.
She is now happily remarried but still fights anxiety and other mental health issues.
“I’m very happy to have her in my life, even my father,” Britton said. “I’ve done my best to forgive him and move on. We have a very positive relationship, but it’s still a work in progress every day.”
Britton now wonders every day how her childhood would have been different if a program like this had existed.
“There wasn’t a lot of questions asked, but I wish there were,” she said.
Only in the past year did Britton view her story as something to be proud of, but it will forever drive her passion to help others change their stories.
“They’re not victims,” she said. “They’re survivors. They can turn their lives around and make a positive impact in their community.”
Britton hopes to extend the pilot program to other cities after its Sept. 30 cutoff.
The health department released the following statement: