Angela Echols assists domestic abuse victims with much more than legal services; she also tries to help set them free
Helping victims become survivors
Two years ago, Angela Echols made a decision that is almost unheard of. She gave up her lucrative job as a full-time attorney at a firm in Hot Springs and founded a non-profit that offers low-cost legal services to victims of domestic abuse. Echols, who grew up in Hot Springs, works out of a donated office space in Davidson Law Firm. So far, she is the only lawyer working for the non-profit, called Accessible Legal Services. Recently, her sister volunteered to help answer phones.
Echols says she made the decision to start the initiative after volunteering to offer life skills workshops to women at Potter’s Clay, a shelter in Hot Springs that offers programs and support to women who are victims of domestic abuse or trying to overcome addiction.
“I just suddenly became very interested in women in recovery,” Echols said. “I was teaching them life skills, but they were telling me other stories, mentioning the legal issues they are trying to get resolved and how there were no avenues for them. Something resonated with me because I saw this time and time again. This was the motivator for me to start the non-profit law firm.”
Echols also now sits at the helm of the Garland County Domestic Violence Task Force, a group comprised of individuals in the community who are working to raise awareness about abuse in Hot Springs. She also organizes a monthly support group for abuse victims and teaches classes to inmates at the Garland County Detention Center.
Accessible Legal Services offers its clients services such as help with filing for divorce,
Angela Echols Accessible Legal Services 501.547.1287
“We are trying to educate the public right now and show that it is a problem,” she said. “It is a problem a lot of people want to ignore. No one wants to get involved with anyone else’s problems. They don’t want to step in and ask those hard questions.”
custody arrangements and guardianship. If clients cannot afford to pay certain court fees, she will assist them out-of-pocket.
But she also does much more than that.
Echols says she works with her clients to come up with a plan to leave their abusers and to stay safe. Leaving an abuser is usually the most dangerous time for a victim and requires a sophisticated plan. According to the Center for Relationship Abuse Awareness, 75 percent of domestic violence related homicides occur when the victim tries to get away.
Friends or family need to be in place to offer the victim support. The victim may have no financial resources or employment because the abuser has not allowed her to work. She will need a safe place to stay. It is not uncommon for a victim to literally leave in the middle of the night.
“We have to have safety plans,” Echols said. “You are on edge when the victim is leaving. We don’t know how the abuser will respond.”
“Most of them leave everything,” she added. “They don’t take anything, a lot of times not even clothes.”
A display of the Clothesline Project, a memorial for domestic violence victims.