STOPDV was initially founded over 20 years ago by the Honorable Judge H.G Foster. While working as a deputy prosecuting attorney, Judge Foster realized that there was a need in the community to help victims who “couldn’t hit back.” Throughout his career, he could not tolerate individuals who would verbally, mentally, and physically bully others to establish control over them.
After attending a national domestic violence convention, Judge Foster returned to Arkansas and met with the Attorney General to put together a statewide seminar on domestic violence. He recalled that in his 18 years of experience in municipal court, victims would typically come in looking afraid, and would have a friend with them looking angry. During this time as well, domestic violence cases were typically handled as a cattle call “he in and she in” deal. Judge Foster recognized this and began filing all of his domestic violence charges in the circuit court. He met with Honorable Judge David Reynolds, and for the first time, the two specialized their docket to handle orders of protection and misdemeanor domestic violence cases on the same day.
Even after the creation of a specialized domestic violence docket, there was still some work to do. The judges recognized that victims would show up to their court date and be forced to represent themselves in front of their abusers with no knowledge of how to navigate the court system. On the first day in circuit court, Judge Foster announced that he would be representing all of the petitioners. He recalled how rewarding this feeling was, seeing individuals who had a lifetime of experience abusing others finally be on the receiving end, and law enforcement starting to back the victims.
After Judge Foster retired as a prosecutor, no other individual who succeeded him was willing to stop representing victims in orders of protection cases. In Faulkner County since 1996, the prosecuting attorney has seen to it that petitioners in orders of protection cases have representation, but Judge Foster recognized that there needed to be an anchor to continue the work he started beyond his service on the bench. He wanted to create something that would outlast him and thus engineered the idea for a private independent entity that would not rely on anyone being elected or not elected as public officials.
Thus, STOPDV was born, with our name being credited to Judge Reynolds (STOPDV stands for the Special Team on the Prevention of Domestic Violence.) Our board consists of a legislator, city council and quorum court members, an attorney, and other community members who are committed to helping survivors of domestic violence. In our first year, we were able to reach out to and assist 883 clients far exceeding our set goal of 50 clients. We also launched our website, quarterly newsletter, and had our inaugural annual fundraiser. We have been able to provide services to survivors through no-contact orders and orders of protection and have advocated changing the way the state approaches domestic violence cases in both civil and criminal courts. We look forward to continuing to serve our community!
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