HER Fea­ture

The Sentinel-Record - HER - Hot Springs - - Her Feature -

Echols says some of her clients are women from Pot­ter’s Clay. But she also has women liv­ing in the com­mu­nity who seek her help, hear­ing about her ser­vices via word-of-mouth. She says that abuse knows no bound­aries, af­fect­ing women across all so­cioe­co­nomic spec­trums.

“These are peo­ple in your back­yard,” she said. “Sur­pris­ingly, there are a lot of women in do­mes­tic vi­o­lence sit­u­a­tions who come ran­domly to me. In con­ver­sa­tion, they will men­tion that he is very vi­o­lent, they will say, ‘I am kind of scared.’”

She added: “I have seen af­flu­ent women in my of­fice. Now I am get­ting any kind of do­mes­tic vi­o­lence client. The ma­jor­ity are work­ing women who come to see me who have put up with abuse for long pe­ri­ods of time, and they are just tired.”

“This af­fects all kinds [of women],” she said. “This is a so­cial prob­lem, and it is a prob­lem in our com­mu­nity.”

She says the most re­ward­ing part of her job is not only help­ing vic­tims leave and as­sist­ing them with what­ever le­gal help they might need, but also see­ing vic­tims turn into sur­vivors. In time, their lives dra­mat­i­cally change af­ter es­cap­ing the abuse. This, Echols says, is why she does this work.

“It has been tremen­dous,” she said. “Those women who had the courage to leave, and some of them are two or three years down the road and do­ing won­der­ful things with their lives. It gives other vic­tims hope and en­cour­age­ment.”

Echols is also work­ing to spread aware­ness via the Gar­land County Do­mes­tic Vi­o­lence Task Force. She, along with its mem­bers, meet monthly, work­ing with sur­vivors, the ju­di­cial sys­tem, coun­selors and other non-prof­its in the com­mu­nity to cre­ate a con­sor­tium of ser­vices and also to cre­ate pro­grams to ed­u­cate more peo­ple the is­sue.

She says there is a cer­tain taboo at­tached to do­mes­tic abuse, that it only hap­pens to women who might have ad­dic­tions or who might live in poverty. That it is em­bar­rass­ing. That no one can un­der­stand why a woman would choose to stay with an abuser. That women feel like some­how they have failed.

“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.”

“We re­ally are tack­ling big prob­lems,” she added. “I am see­ing the num­bers of peo­ple in abuse sit­u­a­tions is large. I want peo­ple to not look at it as a taboo.”

But Echols says she also has to deal with the re­al­ity that abuse vic­tims fre­quently change their minds, de­cid­ing to re­turn to their abuser. This is of­ten the most mis­un­der­stood as­pect of do­mes­tic abuse, and it is com­plex to un­der­stand. Echols says no mat­ter how many times a woman de­cides to re­turn, she will not give up on them or judge them. She says that it is cru­cial to sup­port a vic­tim when they de­cide they are re­ally ready to leave, to act quickly and “to not let them think about it.”

“Even if you go back,” she said. “I am here to walk with you down this jour­ney un­til the time you de­cide you are done with it.”

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