Domestic Violence Prosecution and Prevention: Just How Hard it Can Be

JONESBORO, AR -- Domestic violence dominated the news last week. Six people in Region 8 died in a four day span, all of them part of domestic violence cases. Many of these cases weren't first-time problems. Often times the victim feels stuck in the situation with the abuser. That makes further cases difficult to prevent.

We sat down with a state senator and local prosecutor to see just where Arkansas stands with domestic violence. State Senator Robert Thompson says domestic violence has always been a problem state legislators have tried to focus on.

"The recent killings that we've seen that have been related to domestic violence have especially highlighted the problem," says Senator Robert Thompson of the 11th District.

In the most recent legislative session, several bills were passed regarding domestic violence in Arkansas. One increased the order of protection for victims of domestic violence for 10 years and another increased funding for the Arkansas Commission on Child Abuse, Rape and Domestic Violence. For this funding, the criminals themselves will be footing the bill.

"It provides that whenever a criminal defendant pays a bail bond fee, part of that fee will go to this state commission," says Sen. Thompson.

Other bills passed stiffened the penalties for those convicted of domestic violence, but Prosecuting Attorney Brent Davis says getting them convicted is usually where the cases become very complicated.

"Not only do sometimes you not have a victim, but by the time you get to trial, the victim has now sided with the defendant and is not only not cooperative but now is throwing up road blocks to a successful prosecution of the defendant," says Brent Davis, the prosecuting attorney for the 2nd Judicial District.

The difficulty is there. Prosecuting a case without the victim willing is a big obstacle for a prosecutor like Davis, but he says if the officers at the scene collect pictures of the abuse and document spontaneous statements from the victim it still can be a case in court.

"If you can't have the victim testify in court, the officers can testify to that and it not be considered here say. So there are some methods to prosecuting a case without the victim, but it is difficult," says Davis.

A difficult thing that prosecutors, legislators and law enforcement all say is worth their efforts, that is as long as everyone keeps trying to make a difference for the victims of domestic violence.

"We're trying to do more as a state government, but I don't know that you can ever do enough to prevent domestic violence. One incident of domestic violence is too many," says Sen. Thompson.

Senator Thompson said he encourages everyone to talk to your state legislator about continuing to increase the funding for the domestic violence shelters. It's extremely important in these repeat cases that the victim always has somewhere to go and turn to for safety.